University Hospital receives national organ donation honor for fifth consecutive year

Thursday, November 11, 2010 | 6:03 p.m. CST; updated 1:10 p.m. CST, Friday, November 12, 2010

COLUMBIA — Kelly DeLine’s son Jacob died in 2002 in a car accident, but she still gets a call from him every Mother’s Day.

A 47-year-old man named Nelson received Jacob Shafer’s heart in an organ transplant. He calls Kelly DeLine every second Sunday in May to remind her of the life her late son was able to give him.

How to be a donor

Follow any of these methods to be listed in Missouri's Organ and Tissue Donor Registry or to make your organ donation decision known:

  • Register online.
  • Enroll when you obtain/renew a driver's license, instruction permit or state ID.
  • Print and mail in a registration form or call toll-free at 888-497-4564 to have a form sent to you.
  • Sign the back of your license in permanent marker at any time, with two witnesses present.
  • Include your decision in a will.
  • Communicate with family members and others about your decision so that if unfortunate circumstances arise, the decision is known among loved ones.

Five other patients received organs and an extended life from Jacob, including a then-7-year-old girl who needed a kidney; a woman in Garden City, Mo., who was waiting for a pancreas; and a man in New Mexico who needed a functioning liver. All keep in touch with DeLine, something for which she's grateful.

“For me, organ donation has been a comfort as a grieving mother because part of my son is still alive,” DeLine said.

University Hospital was awarded the Medal of Honor for Organ Donation on Nov. 3 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and DeLine, a Columbia resident, was invited to tell her story Thursday at a hospital news conference.

The medal is awarded to hospitals across the country that achieve an organ donation consent rate of 75 percent or above over a 12-month period. The rate reflects patients who have agreed to give organs after death. University Hospital recorded an 84 percent consent rate for 2009. This is the fifth year in a row that the hospital has won the award, and it continues to be the only hospital in mid-Missouri to have received the honor.

Mark Wakefield, associate professor of surgery and director of the renal transplant program at MU Health Care, explained the organ donor program, saying that the hospital identifies potential organ donors, such as terminally ill patients or trauma patients, and encourages organ donation by communicating with these patients and their families.

University Hospital partners with the Midwest Transplant Network to improve its outreach and increase organ donation rates through education, family support groups and other community-centered efforts, said Lori Kramer Clark, hospital services coordinator for the network. According to the Missouri Organ and Tissue Donor Registry, there are 1,330 Missouri patients on the national organ transplant waiting list among 108,725 total patients.

“I think the biggest obstacle we have in getting people to register is people having to face their own mortality,” Clark said. 

Clark said she believes most states have chosen local Department of Motor Vehicles bureaus as a neutral place to ask citizens to join the donor registry, but said people still may be uneducated or uncomfortable about donating. She said the Midwest Transplant Network and University Hospital are working to change this by making sure places that offer donor registration have the necessary information to answer questions about organ donation.

Though University Hospital has a high donor consent rate, the only transplant the hospital actually performs is kidney transplants. However, as the DeLines' case illustrates, organs can be transported across the nation to be transplanted, Wakefield said. According to the Missouri Organ and Tissue Donor Registry, a single donor can save up to eight lives.

The Medal of Honor does not include a monetary award, but Wakefield said he believes it fosters peer competition among hospitals, encouraging everyone to go above and beyond the minimum standards.

“It gives us an expectation to do better next year,” Wakefield said.

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