New safety procedures for organ donation in light of COVID-19

Posted at 7:08 PM, Jun 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-16 19:08:38-04

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Donor Network said there was an initial decrease in organ donation when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit. But since then, they've completed 167 organ transplants in Indiana saving dozens of lives.

"I'm feeling great. I'm recovering pretty good," Harold Herndon said.

Last month, Herndon got the call he'd been waiting almost a year for.

"Actually they had called me that Tuesday and said they had a kidney available, will I accept it," Herndon said. "And I'm like, 'I am going to call you in the morning.' And they were like, 'Well, make your mind up.'"

LEARN MORE | Indiana Donor Network

Herndon said he did have some concerns going through with a major surgery — receiving a kidney transplant — during a pandemic.

"You know I had to pray about it and think about it and I'm like this is an opportunity to change my life so the next morning we called them and set it up," Herndon said.

The doctors and nurses at St. Vincent Hospital set Herndon's mind at ease.

"They have a transplant team," Herndon said. "And that team is, it's awesome I have to say so myself. Everyone just made me feel so comfortable. They took the time to talk to me and explain everything to me."

"We know that donation has to continue to happen," Emily Martyn, recovery coordinator for the Indiana Donor Network, said. "It's essential and we have to continue to save lives through transplant, so how can we make it happen?"

The Indiana Donor Network said they immediately partnered with the Indiana State Department of Health to create a speedy 12-hour turnaround time for testing potential donors for the coronavirus. They and the hospitals had to completely reevaluate their processes in how they were going to safely handle organ transplants, separating COVID-19 patients from donors.

"We are taking every possible precaution. We are not only doing the lab testing, we are reviewing imaging of the donor lungs with a pulmonologist, our chief medical officer," Martyn said. "We are reviewing all the signs and symptoms, asking the donor's family if they've had any other symptoms."

Working tirelessly to give Hoosiers a chance at living a full life.

"I would encourage anybody who's on the fence to step out on faith, go ahead and do it," Herndon said. "It will change your life. I feel so much better."

Twenty people die each day waiting for an organ. Every 10 minutes, another person is added to the transplant waiting list. You can save eight lives through organ donation and heal 75 lives through tissue donation. Anyone can register as a donor.