Often many hours of organisation will have taken place before you receive your call to say that a liver is available for you. So how does it all happen?

A donor co-ordinator is available 24 hours a day to receive referrals of potential organ donors from intensive care units throughout New Zealand. At the time of the referral the donor co-ordinator obtains relevant information about the donor. Once all the information has been received, the donor co-ordinator contacts the transplant teams. This includes the Heart and Lung Team at Green Lane Hospital, the New Zealand Liver Unit, the Director of the New Zealand Kidney Allocation System, the National Eye Bank and the Heart Valve Laboratory at Green Lane Hospital, if the heart is not being retrieved for transplantation.

The transplant teams decide whether the organ(s) are suitable for transplantation and whether they have recipients for those organs. If there are no suitable recipients in New Zealand (ie the recipients on the waiting list might not be a compatible blood group with the blood group of the donor), referrals are made to the Transplant Units in Australia.

The donor co-ordinator ensures that the appropriate blood testing has been carried out on the donor, organises the organ retrieval operation, organises all the transport for the New Zealand transplant teams to travel to and from the donor hospital and travels with the transplant team(s) to the donor hospital.

Following the organ retrieval the donor co-ordinator provides feedback to the staff involved in caring for donor and the family and those involved in the organ retrieval operation. For the staff involved, hearing about the positive outcome(s) of the organ donation makes it seem all worth-while.

One of the most important roles of the donor co-ordinator is providing support and feedback for the donor family. Families receive a letter of thanks at one week, which includes general information about the recipients, eg the liver was transplanted to a man in his fifties. The donor co-ordinators then contact all donor families by phone at three months to offer further information and support. Some families maintain contact with the donor co-ordinators for many years after that to find out the wellbeing of the recipients while for others no further contact is made.

If you would like further information about the role of the donor co-ordinator, Janice Langlands and Ralph Maddison, the two donor co-ordinators in New Zealand, would be pleased to hear from you.

Transplant Donor Co-ordination Office
P O Box 99 431

Ph: 09 630 0935
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This article has also been published in our Newsletter, "Hepatic Happenings",
Volume 2, No. 1, February 2001.