The Indiana Donor Network had another record year in 2021. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the nonprofit says the number of transplants increased by 43% over the past two years, saving the lives of more than 800 people. Indiana Donor Network Chief Executive Officer Kellie Tremain says the increase is being driven by the generosity of Hoosiers, as well as changes within the organization.
In an interview with Business of Health Reporter Kylie Veleta, Tremain said the nonprofit added about 80 positions over the last two years and ramped up public education efforts.
“We always want to transplant more organs than we have in years past,” said Tremain. “We’ve made a lot of various changes over the last couple of years. We’ve hired more staff than ever before, ensuring that we have people in hospitals capturing every possible opportunity. Our public education efforts have reached millions of Hoosiers and last year alone, we added 120,000 people to the Indiana donor registry.”
Last year, the nonprofit says it transplanted 949 organs, the highest number in it’s 34-year history. Tremain said, due to the pandemic, the organization had to get creative, adjusting its usual approach to accommodate social restrictions and safety protocols.
“Usually we go into schools and into health education classes when kids are around the sophomore level and provide education about donation and transplantation,” said Tremain. “With the pandemic, we’ve not been able to go to schools like we used to. We had to be creative and create online presentations.”
In 2020, the organization opened the Indiana Donor Network Organ and Tissue Recovery Center to allow for the transportation of organ donors for on-site recovery, instead of occupying hospital rooms.
Tremain says the center allows the nonprofit to have an ICU setup and operating rooms, similar to a hospital.
“The pandemic has really affected hospitals. They have bed shortages, ventilator shortages, and its been really difficult for families to even visit their loved ones when they’re in the hospital,” said Tremain. “By us having our own organ and tissue recovery center, we’re able to transfer the patients from the hospital to our recovery center, care for them just like they would in any hospital setting and then perform the entire donation process there. It not only frees up the beds for hospitals but it allows families access to their loved ones.”
Despite the record-setting increases, the organization says there are still more than 107,000 Americans on the national transplant waiting list.