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Can transplanted organs be donated again?

liverThe essential gift of organ donation is the ultimate act of “paying it forward” with the donation of healthy organs and tissues. But what if that gift didn’t have to stop at just one transplant? What if healthy organs could save more than one life? For some on the waiting list for kidney and liver transplants, that dream could become a reality with some transplanted organs now able to be donated again

A new, emerging practice in transplantation allows for the successful transplantation of an organ in more than one recipient. Last year, Doctor Jeffrey Veale, director of the UCLA Kidney Exchange Program made news for successfully transplanting a healthy kidney into a second patient, after the first recipient’s tragic death in an auto accident.

We continue to learn more about transplantation, how the body handles it, and how recovery works. In the case of many recipients, a healthy organ – even one that has been transplanted before – can still make a big impact. Last year’s procedure by Dr. Veale and his team successfully re-transplanted a donated kidney into a 70-year old woman who had been waiting for a new kidney while on dialysis for close to 10 years.

“I don’t want to see a healthy kidney that was functioning well after a transplant go to waste,” Dr. Veale says. “About 20 to 25 percent of patients who have a kidney transplant die with a functioning kidney. There are so many years left on those kidneys that could save other people.”

The opportunity to expand the viable donor pool could help hundreds of lives each year, estimates Dr. Veale. “Even if we do this and save five lives, it’s worth it.”

There are nearly 115,000 people in the U.S. waiting to receive a lifesaving organ transplant, nearly 2,000 of which are in our community. Signing up to be an organ, eye and tissue donor is quick and easy to do by saying Yes at the driver license office or Driver Services, or anytime at Donate Life Colorado or Donate Life Wyoming.