Organ donation turns a devastating situation into a miracle

The benefits of organ donation were never more apparent at The University of Kansas Health System last year than when a woman in her 50s experienced a stroke that led to brain death. With multiple organs failing, she didn’t appear to be a candidate for organ donation.

Working with the Midwest Transplant Network, which partners with the hospital to evaluate and manage potential organ donors, Tim Williamson, MD, pulmonary and critical care medicine, determined that lung donation might be possible.

The patient’s family consented to organ donation, taking a tragic situation and turning it into a miracle for another family. With their blessing, Williamson took extra steps to maximize lung function in the donor, and performed dialysis to compensate for her kidney failure.

Thousands of miles away, a transplant surgeon was managing the care of a young woman named Hannah. She had been born with cystic fibrosis and appeared to be in a losing battle for her life. Hannah’s surgeon feared his young patient would not survive without an immediate lung transplant. She was listed for transplant that same day, appearing near the top of the list because she was critically ill.

Through the hospital’s partnership with the Midwest Transplant Network, a match identified Williamson’s patient as the best possible donor and the lung transplant was set in motion. The transplant was a success, and today Hannah is enjoying the best health of her life.

Members of the hospital's organ donation team met Hannah (third from left), lung transplant recipient, at a recent conference.

Hannah’s story was featured at a recent national conference on organ donation and transplantation. Members of our organ donation team were surprised and thrilled when Hannah walked on stage following the presentation and was introduced to the audience.

“Meeting Hannah was truly inspiring,” said Mike Lower, RN, manager, Organ Transplant. “It reminded us again why this work is so important.”

Gigi Vulgamott, RN, hospital and family services coordinator, Midwest Transplant Network, also was delighted to meet Hannah. “She is living proof that organ donation and transplants can save lives,” she said.