Wisconsin Says 'Yes' to Organ Donation

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Organ Procurement Organization (OPO)


MADISON – Wisconsinites are saying "yes" more than 50 percent of the time. We're putting our orange donor dots on our drivers' licenses in record numbers, and saving more lives through transplantation than many states with much larger populations.
Through increased awareness, expanded education or more effective collaboration, the reputation of Wisconsin as a leader in organ donation and transplantation is becoming a well-sung song.
"And that's the way we'll work to keep things," said Tony D'Alessandro, MD, executive director of the UW Health Organ Procurement Organization (OPO). The UW Health OPO was recently recognized with five national awards for their efforts toward making Wisconsin one of the nation’s leaders in organ donation.
"It's a huge sense of responsibility," said D'Alessandro, "both working to keep Wisconsinites aware of the growing need for organ donation, and also to the 1,400 people in the state currently waiting for a transplant. Their lives really depend on the work of our team."
Working with Hospital Partners
Got Your Dot? Say "yes" to organ and tissue donationBecause organ donation happens in hospitals throughout the state, the UW Health OPO works closely with the 104 hospitals in Wisconsin, upper Michigan and the Rockford area that are assigned through federal legislation. The OPO team provides education, leadership, clinical practice and inspiration on organ donation and transplantation best practices.
"Our relationships with our hospital partners are imperative to our success," says D'Alessandro. "Without each hospital's commitment to both ongoing education and sensitive patient communication, the state's organ donation rates would decline and many more people would die while waiting for an organ donor."
The OPO uses the knowledge they've garnered through their very experienced team, and combine it with what they learn from the National Breakthrough Collaborative efforts, to create an environment where everyone involved in the donation process knows exactly what role they play.
"Of course, the most honorable role is that of the donor family who, at a time of great grief, decides to help others," says D'Alessandro.
National Recognition
The UW Health OPO was recently recognized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service Organ Transplantation Breakthrough Collaborative as the only OPO service area in the nation to be recognized for their work in every performance area.
The Collaborative measures consistency in improvement in areas such as the number of successfully transplanted organs and the efforts that the OPO makes to ensure that everyone who could donate is given the opportunity to share their gift of life.
"What people need to understand is that not everyone who wishes to become an organ donor will be able to donate," said D'Alessandro. "That is why we work to educate people about the importance of saying 'yes' to being listed as an organ donor, and to ensure that every deceased person that is eligible to be a donor, becomes a donor."
"It's all about the opportunity for donor families to leave a legacy, and to save someone's life through their generosity," adds D'Alessandro. "This gives great comfort to donor families."

  • Last year, the UW Health OPO worked with 117 donor families, resulting in 546 transplants.
  • Nationally, a new patient is added to the transplant waiting list every 13 minutes.
  • Every day in the U.S., 18 people die waiting for their organ transplant.
  • According to the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles, at the end of July, 2007, 2.2 million people - about 50.1 percent of Wisconsin’s drivers and ID card holders - have said “yes” when asked by DMV staff if they wish to be recorded as potential donors. That compares to 48.6 percent at the end of last year, 47.5 percent in 2005 and 46.1 percent in 2004.
  • Up to eight lives can be saved for every organ donor.
  • People who wish to become an organ donor should sign their driver’s license and tell their family.
  • UW Hospital and Clinics, one of the 104 hospitals in the UW Health OPO service area, was recognized for its efforts to achieve a 75 percent donation rate. The national average donation rate is 60 percent.

Date Published: 11/21/2008

News tag(s):  transplant

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