WEST MICHIGAN — Medical experts say that in many cases the liver, kidney, and other abdominal organs of COVID patients can still be donated and transplanted into others safely.
At the start of the pandemic, there was concern over what sort of impact the virus could have on our organs, and how that could affect transplants.
While elective procedures ground to a virtual halt, the need for organ transplants remained.
“There are still over 100,000 people on the national waiting list— 2,500 In Michigan," said Bruce Nicely, Chief Clinical Officer at Gift of Life Michigan.
"These folks need organs in order to live.”
When the virus hit, the decision was made initially to not accept organs from those infected.
“The virus itself early on was sort of excluded from donation. As we've learned more, the experts in the transplant world are beginning to see some hope and possibility that liver and kidneys and other abdominal organs might be perfectly safe to transplant,” Nicely said.
While they still cannot accept organs from those with an active case of COVID-19, they are now accepting them from those who previously had the virus.
“We have for a year now tested every single organ donor for COVID-19. Obviously, that's a huge consideration when you're looking at an organ for a waiting recipient,” Nicely said.
He says that despite the pause in donations at the start of the pandemic, people have continued to donate their organs at an impressive rate.
“Nationwide, and in Michigan, transplantations saw an increase, and donations were up significantly. Gift of Life Michigan saw the people and families of Michigan donate at a rate of 9% higher than the previous year,” Nicely said.
But, of course, they always need that list of willing organ donors to grow.
“Donation is good, I think that is simple as you could put it,” Nicely said.
“And so if I sign up to be a donor today, it's done. And that's a relief for families who may not have... previously known what their loved one wanted.”
SEE MORE: CORONAVIRUS IN WEST MICHIGAN