I attended a Nursing Training Conference a few years ago. The company that was hosting the conference was named CTDN (California Transplant Donor Network) now called Donor Network West (DNW). This company serves the area in northern California that our local hospital is a part of. It has been established to help save lives.

I remember years ago, when a patient would pass away, before the Donor companies had even been thought of, that the doctor and/or the nurse, would have to approach the family and ask about the patient’s Donor Status (if they knew if the patient was a willing donor or not) and we would have to discuss this with the family during this awful and very sensitive moment.

Now, the Donor Networks have established many criteria ruling patients in for donation of tissue or organs, or rule them out, never needing to even bother the family. This has taken a big burden off the bedside nurse.

When a loved one passes away, the hospital has 1 hour to contact the Donor Network. They will discuss over the phone with the nurse, of course, do they know if the patient is a known donor, and then, go onto the patients current diagnosis and their medical history, identifying whether this patient may be able to help another person in medical need. Age doesn’t really matter as there are tissues and eyes that can be used for others. Medical issues frequently rule out persons to be able to be donors. If there is going to be a tissue or organ donation, the Donor Network contacts the family. The family has a hard decision to make at that time.

One of the dilemmas you see on TV Medical Shows is that a patient is waiting for a heart or kidney, and the perfect match comes through the Emergency Room, and there is drama about one doctor wanting to steal the other terminal patient to save his, etc… Maybe in bigger hospitals; the Donor Network is in control in those situations.

Oh yeah; back to my conference. You see, you walk in the auditorium, and there is a box of tissue at every seat. They tell the attendees about donors, and tell different stories, and short videos, and a lot of tear jerking moments are taking place.

But then came the afternoon session. I have a number of friends in law enforcement, but the big story of the day was how a Bay Area policeman in a high speed chase wrapped his vehicle around a cement light post, and was being resuscitated on the way into the Emergency Room. They were able to get his heart functioning again, but all tests showed he was brain dead from the traumatic brain injury (TBI). He was placed on a ventilator and put in the ICU until all of the family had come to see him and say goodbye. (Of course, the Donor Network had been notified).

What was amazing about this presentation was they brought in the ambulance Paramedic to discuss how they had extracted him from the car and started their emergency procedures on him. Next, they let the Emergency Room Nurse talk about the stabilization and contacting of the family. Then, the doctor who took care of him in the ICU spoke and referred to the hard choices they needed to make; you see, this officer was only about 30 years old and in perfect health other than the accident. The wife spoke (and the tears filled the auditorium), and finally the decision was made to remove him from the ventilator and other life support, and use his organs to help others.

The last group to speak was four  of the seven  organ recipients who all claimed that they would not be alive if it wasn’t for his selfless act of donation. (And the tears flowed).

I urge those of you who have not become a donor to give it a second thought. There are two easy ways to donate: 1- Go to Donate Life California and simply do an online application to be put on the California Register. 2. Go to the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) and tell them you want to be a donor. It can be added onto the license.

Have a Happy New Year! Donate Life!