You rarely ever hear about them, they don’t really seek publicity and when they do talk they always give the credit for their life saving activities to others. The “They” of which I’m speaking are Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs). They are the “Middle man” so to speak, they are the ones who make all the arrangements to get transplantable organs to the people who need them.
When the National Organ Transplant Act was signed into law in 1984 it directed that organ allocation would be managed on a national basis through a public-private partnership. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is the private non-profit agency that works under contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human services to coordinate their national list of people who need transplants with available organs. UNOS has its headquarters in Richmond, Virginia.
OPOs were also mandated by the 1984 act and there are 58 of them working on the local and regional level. They are charged with two tasks. 1) increasing the number of registered donors, and 2) coordinating the donation process when actual donors become available. When they learn of the availability of an organ or organs, OPOs evaluate the potential donors, check the deceased’s state donor registry, discuss donation with family members, contact UNOS, run a match list, and arrange for the recovery and transport of donated organs. They also provide bereavement support for donor families and volunteer opportunities for interested individuals.
OPOs employ a variety of staff including procurement coordinators, requestors, specialists in public relations, communication, and health education, as well as administrative personnel. All of these people are specially trained for their jobs.
LifeSource is the OPO that serves more than 6 million people in communities across Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and portions of western Wisconsin and I know them well. As a consultant I worked closely with them for many years. I can personally vouch for their expertise, compassion and effectiveness because I’ve seen them in action.
To be employed at LifeSource is not like employment elsewhere. The people there don’t go to work every day, they embark on a journey to save lives. That’s the attitude that permeates the entire organization. Everything they do, every job in the organization is focused on one thing, saving lives. All you have to do to know their culture is to look into the eyes of any one of their people when they are talking about what they do and you will feel the sincerity and sense of mission.
Nearly three years ago the New York Times did a story on LifeSource. It is a magnificent piece that clearly illustrates what an OPO does and how their work affects each and every one of us. Once you read it, you’ll have a new understanding and appreciation for what these marvelous people do.
Read “After Death, Helping to Prolong Life” by clicking on this link 2012 New York Times article
Bob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s over 4,000 member Organ Transplant Initiative (OTI) and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs. You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at email@example.com. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love. You can register to be a donor a thttp://www.donatelife.net. It only takes a few minutes.