Number of Wisconsin Organ Donors Highest Ever

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Got Your Dot?; Number of Wisconsin Organ Donors Highest EverMADISON - In 2008, more people than ever in Wisconsin made the decision to donate their organs, helping the UW Health Organ Procurement Organization (OPO) reach a new milestone: 137 organ donors.

On average, the OPO served 11 donors and their families each month.

According to Jill Ellefson, executive director at the UW Health OPO, dedication to excellence in patient care, non-stop teamwork and a passion for organ donation are key to successfully managing so many donors.

"Our donor families, the network of partner hospitals, our volunteers across the state, the OPO staff…everyone involved is vital to the outcome," said Ellefson.

From awareness and education about donation - when people put their dot on their driver's license - to procurement and placement of the organs, each step is a well-orchestrated process.

With more than 100,000 people on the national wait list for organ transplants, more than 1,400 in Wisconsin alone, the need is great. The UW Health OPO works around the clock to educate and assist hospital staff members, serve donors and families and provide organs to those at the top of the wait list.

"Public education is vital," says Trey Schwab, UW Health OPO outreach coordinator. "The more people know about donation, the facts and the lives that are saved, the more they want to share the information."

The UW Health OPO relies on the service and commitment of their volunteers across the state to share donation information. Workplace partnerships, like those with WPS Insurance and Dairy Queen Restaurants, combine resources with the OPO to reach even more people. In late 2007, WPS kicked off its ORGANize to Save Lives campaign, with a goal of adding 1 million new donor dots to Wisconsin driver's licenses. They also sponsor Dottie Donor Dot, Wisconsin's new donation mascot.

Their efforts are making a difference. According to data collected by the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles, more than 100,000 new people added a donor dot to their license or state ID in 2008. Currently, more than 52 percent of the state population has made this designation.

Efforts to maintain its reputation as one of the nation's leaders in organ donation - the UW Health OPO consistently ranks in the top one percent of the 58 OPOs in the nation - have brought changes to the OPO over the years.
From a handful of dedicated staffers in the 1980s to a current team of more than 30 professionals, their programming and practices are studied by other OPOs, bringing teams from as far away as Australia and Japan to Madison to observe and learn.

"We attribute our success to our partners across the state, especially to the nurses and physicians in the hospitals we serve," said Ellefson.

In 2008, 12 hospitals in the UW Health OPO service area were awarded the National Medal of Honor for their work to achieve a 75 percent donation rate, meaning that at least three-fourths of the people who were eligible to be a donor became one.
The average in the UW Health service area was 87 percent. The national average is just 70.7 percent. The UW Health OPO has 12 hospitals that were eligible to receive the Medal of Honor. For the first time, all 12 hospitals received the medal.

Ellefson adds, "They are dedicated to continually improving the way they serve both donors and their families. The work they do at their hospitals means more lives can be saved."

Including the 92 donors from the Milwaukee area, served by Wisconsin Donor Network, a total of 229 donors shared the gift of life in Wisconsin last year.

Date Published: 07/06/2009

News tag(s):  transplant

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