by Mike Liguori
The community-based, not-for-profit Donor Alliance is on pace to set a record number of organ and tissue donations in 2005 thanks in part to the work of staff and volunteer nurses.
As of July 2005, Donor Alliance had a record 90 donors. One-hundred donations were made in all of 2004. Donor Alliance coordinates with over 100 hospitals, including four transplant centers, through Colorado and Wyoming and is the federally designated organ procurement organization for those states.
"Nurses play a vital role in the work we do at Donor Alliance," said Jennifer Bailey, director of communications. "We have an entire hospital development staff dedicated to building relationships, providing educational programs and materials, following up on each donor referral, and acting as a resource for information, to nurses and other hospital staff.
"From the CEO to administrative staff, Donor Alliance’s staff depends on good relationships with the nursing staff at each hospital in order to do our job effectively. We work hard to build relationships within those hospitals because most often, it is the nurse that refers a potential donor to Donor Alliance," Bailey said.
Donor Alliance leaders believe the tireless efforts of the staff are among the reasons for the record-setting pace of 2005.
"Each department plays a vital role in helping us achieve our overall mission of facilitating the donation and recovery of organs and tissues for people needing transplantation," Bailey said. "We spend significant time interacting face to face with nurses and other hospital personnel to educate them and provide them with the tools they need to understand our organization and do their jobs more effectively.
"We see better communication taking place within hospitals – resulting in a higher number of referrals. Better understanding of the general process of donation and referring a potential donor in a timely manner are all key to helping us succeed," she said.
Colorado’s donation rate of 80 percent in 2004 was well above the 62 percent national average.
"A large part of the work we do at Donor Alliance is centered around building awareness of the need for people to sign up to be organ and tissue donors in our service area of Colorado and Wyoming. We invest a significant amount of time reaching out to different groups, providing information about organ and tissue donation and offering a call to action," Bailey said.
According to the Donor Alliance, 62.5 percent of licensed drivers in Colorado said yes to donation by joining the Colorado Donor Registry and in Wyoming 85 percent are registered.
Kidneys are the most needed organ in both Colorado and across the country.
"Due to a high amount of hypertension and diabetes in the United States, the need for kidneys exceeds the need for other organs," Bailey said. "These illnesses put added pressure on the kidneys, thus leading to a higher need for kidney transplants. In Colorado, 774 people are presently waiting for a kidney and nationally 63,275 are waiting."
Other recoverable organs include the heart, lung, liver, pancreas and small bowel. Recoverable tissues include bone, tendons and corneas, as well as veins, valves and skin.
Bailey said more nursing help is welcome at the Donor Alliance. "Many of our current staff members are registered nurses. We are also looking to recruit volunteers into our volunteer program," she said.
For more information, contact the Donor Alliance at (303) 329-4747 or www.donoralliance.org.