In April, America is proud to celebrate National Donate Life Month.
Organ donation is often called the ultimate gift of life. This was especially true on March 10 and 11, 2016. That’s when six organs from a deceased donor saved the lives of four patients through a series of transplants at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.
A heart-kidney transplant. A double-lung transplant. A liver transplant. A kidney transplant.
It was an incredible series of surgeries made possible by a family who, during a time of impossible grief, made a decision to donate their child’s organs.
“Before my daughter got sick, I never expected my family’s life to be touched in this way,” said Chrissi Sulunga of Hawaii, mom of 14-year-old Sina Sulunga-Kahaialii, who received a much-needed kidney transplant due to chronic renal failure. “We are filled with gratitude to organ donation forever.”
It’s a gratitude that is felt by families all across the nation. Donate Life America reports that annually more than 8,500 deceased donors make possible approximately 24,000 adult and pediatric organ transplants. In addition, there are nearly 6,000 transplants from living donors. Still, during April’s Donate Life Month, and every day of the year, it’s important to remember that more than 123,000 men, women and children are currently in need of lifesaving organ transplants.
Though the transplant teams at Packard Children’s and the Ford Family Surgery Center were certainly busy on these two days and nights, it’s something they’re used to. They once set a record with five transplants in 24 hours, and the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network has noted that Packard Children’s pediatric organ transplant volume has been No. 1 or tied for No. 1 in the U.S in four out of the past five years.
On these two action-packed days in March, the heart-kidney transplant team was led by Olaf Reinhartz, MD, and Waldo Concepcion, MD; the double-lung transplant by Katsuhide Maeda, MD; the liver transplant by Amy Gallo, MD, and Marc Melcher, MD; and Sina’s kidney transplant by Gallo and Concepcion. Surgeons, doctors and care teams report that each patient is now doing well in their recovery.
“Orchestrating these surgeries takes lots of quick planning and teamwork across the organization,” said Carlos Esquivel, MD, PhD, who leads the division of transplantation. “We have phenomenal experience at Stanford with single and multi-organ transplant. From pre-op to surgery and the critical post-surgery period, our transplant capabilities are the best in the nation. And we also have a wonderful program that helps patient families learn to live with and manage a transplant for years afterward.”
Esquivel and everyone at Packard Children’s Hospital and Stanford Children’s Health salute organ donation and the gift of life during April. But maybe the best salute comes from one very grateful mom.
Now, my daughter is going to be OK,” said Chrissi, a tremendous advocate for organ donation. “I am so very, very grateful. Organ donation does, indeed, save lives.”
* Register to be an organ donor at http://donatelifecalifornia.org/lpch.
* Find out more about our Pediatric Transplant Program.
- Robert Dicks
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