Demand for organ transplants increasing

Some 120,000 people in the U.S. await life-saving organ transplants.

Unfortunately, that number is increasing.

“It’s been a problem for years,” said Dr. Michael Marvin, chairman of Geisinger Medical Center’s Department of Transplantation and Liver Surgery. “Transplantations have become so successful and more and more people need them.”

In addition, the list of transplant candidates has grown to include more older organ recipients.

Most of those awaiting transplants annually, or about 100,000, need kidneys. Many others await liver and pancreas transplants.

The median wait time for a kidney transplant is 3.6 years, but varies depending on health, compatibility and availability of organs, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

Every 14 minutes a person is added to the kidney transplant list.

Twenty-two people die each day awaiting a transplant, including 13 in need of a kidney.

Dialysis can help a person stay alive while awaiting a kidney transplant.

The process involves an artificial means of eliminating waste or unwanted water from the blood that failed or damaged kidneys cannot carry out.

Unfortunately, dialysis can cause other problems including heart disease, anemia, infection, bone disease and nerve damage.

“The longer you are on dialysis, the worse off your whole body is,” Marvin said.

Patients who have a transplant before dialysis becomes necessary live an average of 10 to 15 years longer than those on dialysis.

Needless to say, time is critical for many people in need of a transplant.

“Organ donation is critical,” Marvin said.

A person can become a donor by signing up through the state’s organ donor registry or when renewing or applying for a driver’s license.

Geisinger participates in The Gift of Life program, which obtains and delivers organs to transplant centers in the state.

“Signing up on the registry is first person consent,” Marvin said. “That means the potential donor has the right to give consent.”

Geisinger performed 42 kidney transplants and 11 liver transplants last year.

Marvin noted that the health system is close to performing more liver transplants then ever.

He noted organ donations not only benefit the recipients, but also their families who’ve waited so long for a loved one to receive the much-needed transplant.

“We can’t do anything without the donors,” he said.