Dr. Sumana Navin, Course Director and Ms. Sujatha Suriyamoorthi, Manager-Information Systems, MOHAN Foundation underwent Gift of Life Institute’s (GOLI) Mini Fellowship in Organ Donation from 23rd October 2017 to 3rd November 2017 in USA. This fellowship was facilitated under the auspices of the International Cooperation Agreement signed between Gift of Life Institute, Philadelphia and MOHAN Foundation in 2015. One of the objectives of the agreement was facilitating the enhancement of the deceased donation and transplantation programme in India through education and training of donation and transplantation professionals in the country. *The Mini Fellowship was sponsored through an educational grant from MOHAN, USA.
Gift of Life Donor Program, Philadelphia is a non-profit Organ Procurement Organization (OPO) that serves eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware. It is the largest OPO in the country and had 540 donors in 2016 that resulted in 1,412 transplants (49 donors per million population) – the highest volume in the U.S.
The Mini Fellowship comprised didactic sessions, observational learning, workshops and special events.
Didactic Sessions: Gift of Life Donor Program manages every facet of the donation process, coordinates the recovery of organs and tissues, and allocates the organs to suitable recipients as per UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing) allocation policies. All these aspects were covered by the experts during the following didactic sessions.
Observational Learning: Multi organ procurement process (Liver, Kidneys and Lungs) - Nazareth Hospital, Philadelphia
Visit to Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation:
The fellowship offered them the unique opportunity of visiting the Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation (MTF) located in Jessup, Pennsylvania. Mr. Ted Bender, Director took them on a tour of the entire facility. There was so much knowledge to be gained and it was fascinating to learn about the exacting standards set to ensure the quality of tissue graft.
About MTF: MTF is a not-for-profit service organization and is the largest tissue bank in the world that is dedicated to helping people in need of tissue by providing them high quality grafts. MTF works on the following three guiding principles
Visit to Einstein Medical Center:
A visit to Einstein Medical Center was organized during the fellowship. This gave them the opportunity to observe the pre transplant counselling and post transplant follow-up with kidney and liver recipients. They also had the opportunity to observe the multi-disciplinary team meeting on listing patients on the waitlist registry, as well as a QAPI (Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement) meeting.
Donation Champion Learning Session:
Dr. Sumana and Ms. Sujatha also had an opportunity to attend the ‘Donation Champion Learning Session’ - a day long workshop that addressed critical care staff on determination of brain death, best practices for referring the potential organ donors to OPOs, maximizing the clinical evaluation and donor management and supporting the families of potential organ donors.
A panel discussion on “Patient and Family Perspectives” was also a part of the workshop. The panel comprised a donor family member, a liver transplant recipient, a potential recipient awaiting kidney transplant and an expert from Family Support Services, Gift of Life Donor Program. While speaking, Mr. John Branton, liver transplant recipient shared that waiting for an organ was the most harrowing experience. He also added that among many other factors the ‘Patient Support Group’ was the one which really helped him to cope with the feeling of uncertainty and vulnerability.
Ms. Carol McCloud, a donor mother shared that donating her son’s organs helped her to come out of her grief. Deciding to donate his organs, thus saving the lives of many was helping her to live her life after her son had passed away. Mr. Bill Murray, a kidney failure patient awaiting a transplant shared his experience. He said that his life was revolving only around diet, dialysis and visiting his doctor. He also added that he was waiting for that one phone call about an organ being available which might come sometime between that day and years from now, or might not come at all.
The workshop also had case study discussions on approaching donor families and donation after circulatory death.
Life and Legacy – Honoring Organ and Tissue Donors and Their Families
Dr. Sumana and Ms. Sujatha also had an opportunity to attend “Life and Legacy” - an event held to pay tribute to organ and tissue donors and to honor their families for their generous gifts. The event was held at Bear Creek Mountain Resort and Conference Center, Macungie, Pennsylvania on 29th October 2017.
During the ceremony, the families were presented with a ‘Gift of Life Donor Medal’ (a medal which was established to honor the gift that their loved ones’ had given) and ‘Wrapped in Hugs’ wrap (to make the donor families feel wrapped in gratitude and love for their generous gifts). Following that there was a photo tribute during which a photo collage of the organ and tissue donors was shown. During the photo tribute, heartwarming and soothing music was played by harpist Louis Lynch.
In addition, there was also a ‘Quilt Pinning’ section. The donor families were encouraged to bring a quilt square in memory of their loved and those quilt squares were pinned on the ‘Threads of Love’ Memorial Quilt by the donor families.
Training and Education:
Gift of Life Institute focuses on providing innovative training and education to donation and transplant professionals worldwide. To help them attain proficiency in the field, it imparts action oriented comprehensive learning. Every course has a robust curriculum and consists of skill-based activities and discussions. It also offers e-learning courses to meet the global training needs.
Family Support Services:
Family Support Services of Gift of Life Donor Program works extensively towards assisting the donor families to deal with their loss. Following are some of the services offered to the donor families
The Family Support Services sends a ‘Donor Recognition Kit’ immediately after donation in case the donor families prefer to keep the kit during the funeral service. The kit consists of an appreciation certificate, a medal, a pin and a wristband with a message “Be an Organ Donor”.
Gift of Life Family House
During their fellowship, they had the opportunity to stay at the Gift of Life Family House, a unique initiative of Gift of Life Donor Program. The family house serves as a "home away from home" for transplant patients and their families by providing lodging and other support services at an affordable price.
“Home Cook Heroes Program” was a distinct approach of Family House to engage volunteers. With a true sense of generosity, these volunteers come and prepare meals for transplant patients and families at the Family House every day.
Mr. Howard M. Nathan, President and CEO, Gift of Life Donor Program, Ms. Theresa Daly, Director, Gift of Life Institute, the faculty and staff made the Mini Fellowship a warm and enriching experience.
* MOHAN USA, Inc. is a 501(c) (3) registered nonprofit organization that was formed to increase awareness about organ shortage and promote transparency and ethical organ transplantation in India and the rest of the world (www.mohanusa.org)