Donors, surgeons saved 61 lung transplant patients in Alberta

Organ donationWhat a breath-taking feat.

University of Alberta hospital surgeons — and those who committed to organ donations — saved the lives of 61 patients who were in need of a lung transplant in 2015.

Surgeons performed 61 lung transplants in 2015, smashing the old record of 44 set in 2014. Of those 61 lung transplants, 47 organs were from Alberta donors.

That is on top of the record that was broken by the same staff in liver transplant surgeries. Surgeons performed 83 of those surgeries in 2015 — eclipsing the previous record of 80 set in 2007.

Of course, none of those surgeries would be possible without the gift from living and deceased donors, says Dr. Norman Kneteman, Zone Clinical Section Chief for Transplant Services with Alberta Health Services (AHS).

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Tim Penstone, a double-lung transplant recipient in Edmonton, talks to reporters Feb. 25, 2016 at the University of Alberta hospital about his surgery and how it changed his life.

“These record were made possible thanks to an exemption team, including donor co-ordinators, intensive care staff, nurses, respiratory therapists, physicians, surgeons and staff,” said Kneteman in a press release.

“They care for both organ donors and organ recipients at this site and work tirelessly to support our transplant program.”

All lung and liver transplants are performed at Edmonton’s University of Alberta hospital, along with the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute, and the Stollery Children’s Hospital. The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT is also continuing to fund research to help lung transplant patients.

Tim Penstone, a double-lung transplant recipient and an active volunteer with The Lung Association, says his life-saving surgery changed his life.

“I owe my life to my donor,” said Penstone, who took part in a media conference with AHS celebrating the milestone Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016.

Penstone was on a wait list for a lung transplant for four months until he received the call to get a transplant. Since the surgery, his life has improved immensely. He no longer has to carry oxygen with him 24 hours a day and he is back to running his own soil-management company.

“Without a lung transplant, I may not be here today,” said Penstone.

THE NEED IS STILL GREAT

Despite the milestone, however, The Lung Association and AHS urges Albertans to talk to their families and commit to organ and tissue donation as the need still remains high. Alberta has one of the lowest organ and tissue donor rates in the country, according to AHS.

Some who are waiting for a transplant “continue to die” because a suitable donor was not made available, said Kneteman.

“The need for organs is constant,” said Kneteman.

Once deceased organ donor could provide life-saving treatment for seven people, according to AHS

In order to encourage others to commit to organ donation, the provincial government launched the online organ and tissue registry in 2014.

Albertans can also commit to organ and tissue donation at their local registry agent when they to renew their driver’s licenses or other forms of legal ID.

—JC—

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