COVINGTON, La. - Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency (LOPA) announced Tuesday a record number of Louisianians gave the gift of life last year through organ and tissue donation. These heroes offered hope and healing in the midst of 2020 challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic and a historic hurricane season.
With one tissue donor able to restore health or enhance the lives of up to 50 people, the 14% increase in tissue donors over 2019 is significant. A total of 498 heroes and their families said yes to tissue donation last year, according to a spokesperson for LOPA. Applications for tissue donation include heart valve transplants for children born with congenital heart defects, skin grafts for burn victims, and a variety of orthopedic rehabilitation procedures.
There were also 211 organ donors last year, a slight decrease from 2019's record setting year. In all, 699 organs were donated for transplant with an additional 44 organs that were not suitable for transplant being donated for research and medical advancement.
"I am so proud that our team was able to adapt and to support our donor families throughout the many challenges of 2020," said LOPA CEO Kelly Ranum. "As we strive to fulfill our core purpose of Making Life Happen, we continue to look for innovative ways to assist our healthcare and community partners and to honor our donor heroes."
Utilizing the latest technological advancements, LOPA's state of the art Donor Care Center is an integral part of the organization's success. LOPA was the first organ procurement organization in the nation to utilize video visualization of recoveries for transplant surgeons unable to travel due to COVID restrictions. Overhead surgical lights fitted with high definition cameras allowed transplant surgeons to virtually enter the OR, while in-house pathology services enabled them to evaluate an organ's viability quickly and effectively. In addition, the majority of tissue recoveries were performed at the Donor Care Center, freeing up hospital resources and allowing for greater control over sterilization practices. In fact, LOPA was recognized by LifeNet Health for achieving the lowest culture rates for heart valves for transplant.
Additional clinical milestones include the first donation after circulatory death, or DCD, heart donor in Louisiana and the first recovery of a brain for a study of former NFL players.
LOPA also instituted a monthly virtual volunteer training series for donor families and recipients as well as Facebook live events in April and December to honor and celebrate donor heroes.
"Our donor families are our driving force, and they continue to inspire us to do our best and overcome every obstacle the last year threw our way," said Ranum. "The record numbers of organs and tissues donated speaks to the generosity of our donor families and all those who said yes by registering."
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