LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--OneLegacy, the not-for-profit organ, eye and tissue recovery organization serving seven Southern California counties, announced today that in the year just concluded it once again led the nation in deceased donor organ transplants. In 2020, OneLegacy enabled the transplant of a record 1,661 organs from 548 donors, which is especially noteworthy given the dramatic impact and disruption the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the nation, the health care field, and donation and transplantation.
“Even during the current pandemic, the generous act of donation and transplantation has continued, as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services identified transplantation early on as a ‘Do Not Postpone’ procedure,” said OneLegacy CEO Tom Mone. “During the uncertainty of 2020, donor hospitals and staff have been incredible in continuing to recognize the importance of fulfilling the wishes of donors and enabling donation. To these health care providers, donor families, recipients and transplant colleagues, we owe a world of gratitude for their continued caring about our community and our world.”
The record number of organs recovered by OneLegacy and transplanted in 2020 represents an increase of 2.5% over 2019 and marks the sixth consecutive year of record-breaking increases in lifesaving and healing organ donation and transplantation. In addition, more than 190,000 lives were healed, and their vision was restored through cornea and tissue donation in 2020; a number especially impressive given the COVID-caused ban on elective procedures.
“Lifesaving transplants would not be possible without generous donors and their families who, in the midst of tragedy as they lose a loved one, find the courage to say ‘yes’ to donation,” said Mone. “Our 2020 numbers reflect an increased understanding that donation is really about life, not death, as the act of donation leaves a legacy of life by saving and healing the lives of recipients, even during a pandemic.”
Setting a record number of donations during the current pandemic was not without challenges. Central among those were the need of transplant centers and donor hospitals to free up ICU beds, ventilators and staff for COVID-19 patients, all resources which normally support organ donors. As such, in the spring of 2020, OneLegacy made arrangements to either transport organ donors to its Redlands Recovery Center, transfer donors to less-impacted facilities, and/or work with hospitals to recover organs more rapidly than usual in order to help free up ICU beds. OneLegacy also instituted practice modifications designed to prevent contagion and to ensure the health and safety of recipients, family members and health care staff. Due to these additional measures, OneLegacy was able to report no cases of workplace-acquired COVID among the team.
Among those reflecting on OneLegacy’s commitment during the pandemic was Abril Guerrero, mother of a deceased donor who expressed thanks for “everything that you did to honor my son. You honored him with a flag and the honor walk when I could not be there for him due to COVID-19. Donation is a lovely thing to do for others. It takes lots of love when the medical team saves lives, and it makes them very happy to be able to help people.”
The 2020 performance by OneLegacy is part of a nationwide increase in donation as the number of people on the waiting list for a lifesaving organ has decreased by 10% over the past five years. The result is that the United States has a world-leading deceased organ donor transplant rate of 111 organs transplanted per million population; and when living donors are included, the U.S. also leads the world at 134 organs transplanted per million population. Further, preliminary data from Europe suggests that the U.S. will likely lead the world with 38 deceased donors per million population. “Organ donation performance in 2020 shows the U.S. donation and transplantation system continues its decadelong continuous growth as the international leader in caring for the population suffering from organ failure,” said Mone.
Despite these numbers, Mone says that “there is still a lot of work to be done” as the need for transplants is growing far faster than potential donors. More than 108,000 Americans are still waiting to receive a lifesaving heart, liver, lung, kidney and/or pancreas; and, tragically, 22 people die needlessly each day while waiting for a second chance at life.
“The opportunity to donate and to receive a lifesaving transplant knows no national, ethnic or religious boundaries, nor sexual orientation,” said Mone, while pointing out that one organ donor can save up to eight lives, and one tissue donor can help as many as 75 others heal. “That drives us to help every Southern Californian to choose to register to be an organ donor at the DMV and at donatelifecalifornia.org and to explore the option to be a living donor for a friend or family member.”
OneLegacy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives through organ, eye and tissue donation in seven counties in Southern California: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara and Kern. It serves more than 200 hospitals, 10 transplant centers, a diverse population of nearly 20 million, donors and families across the region, and waiting recipients across the country. For more information, visit onelegacy.org.