Tissue donors have the potential to save and heal dozens of people through their donated gifts.
Corneas or whole eyes, bone, skin, tendons, ligaments, heart valves and other cardiovascular tissues can be transplanted. Great care is taken in the recovery of tissues to ensure presentation of the body for funeral purposes. Generally, donation will not delay funeral arrangements, and tissue donation does not interfere with an open-casket funeral for the donor.
Here’s how the process works:
- Death Occurs – When a patient dies, the hospital staff notifies family members. Federal regulations mandate that the hospital notifies an organ procurement organization, such as Donor Alliance, of all deaths occurring there. Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Donor Alliance receives and coordinates organ and tissue referrals in our service area, which cover just more than 100 hospitals.
- Assess Donation Possibility – The deceased patient is assessed for suitability for tissue donation, based on criteria such as age, cause of death and medical history.
- First-person Authorization – Donor Alliance will check the Organ & Tissue Donor Registry to determine if the person is a registered donor. If he/she is a registered donor, Donor Alliance will inform the family that their loved one decided while he or she was living to give the gift of life to someone who truly needs it. Donor Alliance maintains a legal obligation to observe all end-of-life decisions, including donor designation. The states of Colorado and Wyoming recognize this as a legally binding decision. Donor Alliance and all hospitals are legally obligated to honor advance directives, including organ, eye and tissue recovery decisions by the patient.
- Approach Family about Donation – If a person has the potential to be a donor but has not registered, Donor Alliance contacts the family and presents the option to donate. If family members are interested in donation, they must agree to an authorization form that itemizes each tissue they want to donate.
- Gather Information – The family must also answer a medical/social questionnaire (similar to those asked when a person donates blood). These questions are asked for the protection of the recipients and to screen for communicable diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis. The medical history then is examined to ensure the tissue is suitable for transplantation.
- Recover and Transplant Tissue – If the donor’s tissues are eligible to be donated, a surgical team recovers them in an aseptic surgical procedure. To show respect to the donor, any incisions are closed and the body is reconstructed in a way that will still allow a viewing or open casket funeral. The recovered tissues are then used to create numerous grafts for transplant.
Donor Alliance partners with several tissue processing facilities: