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Finding the perfect match — time is of the essence when delivering organs


Clinical transplant co-ordinator Lynne Holt

Clinical transplant co-ordinator Lynne Holt

Tony Hall

Clinical transplant co-ordinator Lynne Holt

Ensuring the right patient is matched with the right organ is a complex process — but one that has to be completed quickly.

Lynne Holt , a transplant co-ordinator at the Freeman Hospital, is one of the people who makes sure that lives are saved when a grieving family gives permission for their loved one’s organs to be used.

“A patient comes in through A&E and ends up in intensive care and obviously everything is done to save their life but, if that isn’t possible, it is up to the medical professional to raise the possibility of organ donation,” she said.

“That is why it is easier for a person to have discussed their wishes with the family and I think that signing onto the Donor Register facilitates that discussion.

“Staff at the hospital where the donor is, phone us and we go online where we call up the donor’s details. We then look at the waiting list and start to consider who they will match.”

Information on patients on the waiting list is updated daily, so transplant co-ordinators are fully aware of their clinical condition whether they are staying at home or in hospital.

“I identify a potential patient or maybe even a couple,” said Ms Holt. “I then have to alert the transplant team and arrange for them to get to the donor.

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“If they are in Northern Ireland we charter a plane which flies to Belfast International.

“A few years ago I was unable to get a charter plane so we had to ask the donor family if they would hold on a little bit extra to give us time to get the transplant team onto a commercial flight.”

Ms Holt said sometimes the process has been delayed by bad weather meaning planes are grounded, but the co-ordinating team stop at nothing to ensure as quick a delivery as possible.

She continued: “We do whatever is necessary. We have used the RAF and lifeboats in the past.

“The retrieval teams don’t normally meet the donor families. They have usually said their goodbyes and gone home by the time they reach the hospital.

“I do remember the father of a young girl asking to meet the surgeon before the procedure. He basically wanted to ask him to take care of his little girl. That was very difficult.

“It can be very difficult because quite often there is no obvious injury to the donor, perhaps they have had a brain haemorrhage and they appear quite healthy.”

Once the organs are removed they are inspected to ensure they are good enough for transplantation.

They are then transported to the hospital where the patient is waiting.