The nations largest organ donation and transplantation symposium has been held in Pomona where professionals gathered to share best practices and discuss ways to raise public awareness of the importance and power of being a donor. The event was sponsored by OneLegacy, the nations largest organ, eye and tissue recovery organization.
In all, nearly 1,300 physicians, nurses, transplant center staff, pastoral care professionals, palliative care professionals and social workers took part in this landmark event held at the Sheraton Fairplex Hotel and Convention Center. Topics discussed included caring for donor families, referral and family support, palliative care, advances in eye bank and corneal transplantation, the dynamics of death by neurological criteria, and best practices for aligning donors and recipients.
In California alone more than 22,000 residents are waiting to receive lifesaving hearts, livers, lungs, kidneys and other organs; but there are simply not enough donors to meet the growing need, said OneLegacy Chief Operating Officer Prasad Garimella. This symposium helped to call attention to this seminal issue and to provide attendees the tools and encouragement they need to positively impact the donation process at their own hospitals and in their own communities.
Delivering the conferences keynote address was former Phoenix police officer Jason Schechterle whose book, Burning Shield, exemplifies the mystery and beauty of the human spirit and the powerful story of one mans will to survive. When a taxi smashed into Schechterles patrol car in 2001, the fireball that consumed the vehicle should have killed him, as he suffered severe burns to over 40 percent of his body. But through a series of small miracles, Schechterle survived and began a long, gruesome, gut-wrenching battle back to health. Donated skin grafts helped save and heal Schechterles life, and he has undergone more than 50 surgeries just to have the ability to accomplish simple daily tasks often taken for granted.
The symposium also included an update on the Redlands Transplant Recovery Facility opened by OneLegacy earlier this year. The centerthe first of its kind in Californiaallows OneLegacy to save more lives by enabling more rapid recovery and transplantation while freeing hospital resources to care for emergency and other patients. The center also reduces the costs of recovery while providing special care for donor families.
The day began with a special leadership session in which executives from two dozen local healthcare organizations met with leadership of OneLegacy to discuss how to spread the message of hope in their own communities. Organ and tissue donations are an incredible gift, and our nations hospitals play a critical role in facilitating a respectful dialogue on this topic, said OneLegacy Chief Financial Officer Cynthia Perley. The fact that nearly three-fourths of those who medically can be donors are actually donating here in Southern California tells us that our message is getting through, but we know that together we still have a lot of work left to do.
Symposium attendees also witnessed the unveiling of the 2019 Donate Life Rose Parade floatThe Rhythm of the Heart. Seventy honorees who have been touched by organ, eye and tissue donation will ride or walk beside the float on January 1. Now in its 16th year, the Donate Life Rose Parade float is the centerpiece of a national effort of more than 50 organizations to reach a broad audience with the simple, life-giving message that organ, eye and tissue donation saves and heals lives.
Nationwide, a record 34,772 organ transplants were performed in 2017, using organs from both deceased and living donors. This total is a 3.4 percent increase over 2016 and marks the fifth consecutive record-setting year for transplants in the United States. OneLegacy saw a record number of organ donors in 2017, surpassing the previous mark set just a year earlier. Its 487 organ donors and 2,642 tissue and eye donors in 2017 resulted in 1,374 lifesaving organ transplants and up to 200,000 lives healed through tissue and cornea transplantation.
OneLegacy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving and healing lives through organ, eye and tissue donation in seven counties in Southern California: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara and Kern. Serving more than 200 hospitals, 11 transplant centers and a diverse population of nearly 20 million, OneLegacy is the largest organ, eye and tissue recovery organization in the world. For more information, visit onelegacy.org, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
Ross Goldberg, 818-597-8453, x-1