The right to give life

. September 3, 2014.
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Preparation, schooling, and experience all weigh in on whether we are able to meet and overcome adversities. But there are some situations, those life-and-death matters, where no amount of pre-anything can fully ready a person to deal with the intensity and after-effects of such highly charged moments.

Case in point: Procurement coordinator of Lifeline of Ohio, Jeffery Blitz, encountered just such an intersection. After only four months in his position at Lifeline, Jeff (then only thirty years old) had to meet with the parents of a seven-month-old girl who had died from complications originating from a respiratory illness.

A sudden illness

Two days before Thanksgiving, this young couple was traveling when their daughter contracted an illness that took her life only five days later. Within the confines of his responsibilities, Jeff had to meet, counsel, and discuss the possibility of organ donation with this suddenly grief-stricken family. 

Prepared as he could be, Jeff hit an internal snag en route to the hospital to ask for permission from the family. How do you ask a parent to donate a precious part of life such as an organ from one they loved so dearly? It is never easy. And yet, multiple times, week after week, this is what a procurement coordinator must do in order to pass on the gift of life.

Jeff and his colleagues continue to work within the confines of such highly emotional settings with grieving dads, moms, sons, daughters, friends, colleagues, and neighbors because they know the difference it makes, the life-and-death difference. For every individual whose life ends, there are countless others who are similarly struggling to survive and perhaps grieving their own loss of minimally good health and the ability to live a functional life. Looking at it this way, we understand why Jeff does what he does.

But what exactly does the process of organ look like step by step? Jeff explains that organs become “available” for donation only after a person has been officially declared “brain dead.” After consent is given, procurement coordinators will initiate the process of evaluating the patient for possible organ donation. 

Organ offered to doctors

     After the necessary testing is completed, Jeff enters the information into a database that opens up to a 500-mile radius if no match is found in his city. He “offers” the organs to three doctors within the database one at a time and in 1,2, 3 order (usually within an hour) each surgeon will say yes or no. Jeff continues to work down his list until he has a taker. Immediately upon receiving a positive response, Jeff must then work on getting the organ to the transplant surgeon. Counselors work with both the family of the deceased patient and the recipient of the organ to answer questions, receive support, and act as liaisons between the families and medical staff.

Information on becoming an organ donor is available at lifelineofohio.org or 

calling 800-525-5667, or go to bmv.ohio.gov and click on “BMV online resources.”

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