Approximately 23,000 hospital deaths occur in Alabama each year, and under federal law, every one of those patients must be screened as a potential donor, regardless of age or diagnosis, according to Ann Rayburn, senior manager of professional education for the Alabama Organ Center (AOC).
"There are so many people waiting for organ transplants, so if there is a possibility, we try to make it happen," Rayburn
"We can't assume that a patient's family is going to know about their wishes just because someone's name is on the registry," Rayburn
"We want to work with the family to carry out the individual's wishes."
If no documentation is available or if the patient is under the age of 18, the family must make the donation decision.
said this is why it is important for you to talk to your family about your decision, regardless of your age.
"The testing (for transmissible diseases) takes six hours, but at the same time, we are identifying recipients that are going to be the best match," Rayburn
Potential recipients are listed on a national registry operated by the United Network for Organ Sharing
(UNOS), the nonprofit organization that operates the federally approved Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.
Everyone on a waiting list for a transplant is listed with UNOS
When a donor is available, officials at UAB access UNOS and enter information about the donor, including height, weight, age and the zip code of the patient's hospital.
The site then generates a list of recipients in order of priority, which is determined by how long a patient has waited and how well a patient matches the donor.
Patients waiting for hearts, livers and lungs have a critical status affiliated with them as well.
"The sicker a patient is, the higher [his or her] place on this list," Rayburn
"All the guidelines for determining recipients are dictated by UNOS
Patients who wish to donate their eyes do so through the Alabama Eye Bank
said, and if a patient is going to donate organs and eyes, representatives work together so the family does not have to complete multiple sets of paperwork.
Once the donor patient's organs are recovered, the body is released to the family for burial.
Within about two weeks, the donor family will receive a letter of condolence and thanks from the AOC
The family also will learn what organs and tissues were recovered and what the AOC knows about the recipients, Rayburn