Thursday, November 5, 2020

Gift of Life

Donations impacted by virus surge

There are secondary threats to life during the current coronavirus pandemic as organ donation is impacted by infectious disease procedures at hospitals.

As the COVID-19 pandemic enters a new month, organ transplant recipients need to take extra precautions to protect themselves and Gift of Life Michigan is still working with hospital transplant centers to provide life-saving organs to patients in need.

“We're still here and we're still doing the work that we always do,” said Dorrie Dils, CEO of Gift of Life Michigan. “We're doing everything we can to engage people and make sure that people who are waiting for an organ transplant, or donors or donor families that still want to donate, that we're still here, and we're still making every effort to make that happen.”

Those efforts have been impacted and often thwarted by the COVID-19 virus which has forced the delay of many non-critical transplants of organs and tissue. With the uncertainty surrounding the virus and how quickly it can spread, potential donors who test positive for the disease are not medically suitable for donation. Surgical procedures involved with transplants are also impacted as often there is simply no room in hospitals for securing the donated organs or the transplant.

“Transplants happen in hospitals and most all of our hospitals in Michigan - particularly southeast Michigan - are getting overwhelmed with COVID-positive patients, said Dils.

 “Hospitals have to use their resources, like ventilators and ICU beds, to take care of those individuals. If there is a patient in the hospital who is critical and needs a new heart or a new liver, those transplants are still occurring, but many other individuals are waiting at home and can wait out this pandemic until a transplant is safer for them.” 

While patients can still receive transplants, transplant centers and physicians work with their patients to evaluate the risk of the transplant procedure and whether that risk outweighs the benefit of saving that individual's life. Right now, especially here in Michigan, transplants are being completed for people that are very, very sick and have no other option but to go ahead and receive that organ, Dils said. 

She added that testing for infectious disease, including COVID-19, is performed and that all procedures recommended by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Centers for Disease Control have been implemented. 

Gift of Life continues to advise organ transplant recipients and their caregivers to follow all CDC guidelines on social distancing and other preventive measures and to consult with their physicians if they think they have developed any symptoms of the disease. 

Dils said she is proud of the way staff has stepped up to meet this unprecedented challenge and continue to provide hope for the thousands of people on the Organ Transplant Waiting List, as well as to honor the wishes of those who are already on it. 

“I've seen people step up and do some remarkable things,” she said. “They've been very creative; they've come up with solutions to overcome the barriers they face every day.”

To sign up on the Michigan Organ Donor Registry, visit