Honoring organ donors by lighting up the night

September 4, 2012

On Thursday, hundreds of people gathered for the Mid-America Transplant Services Candlelight Memorial Celebration.

Find out more on our new blog: http://barnesjewishblog.org/?p=12038

Hundreds to gather for MTS candlelight memorial celebration

August 24, 2012

On Sunday, more than 1,000 people are expected to attend the Mid-America Transplant Services (MTS) Candlelight Memorial Celebration. Held at the memorial park adjacent to the MTS offices, it’s a wonderful night to honor the donors and families who make the miracle of transplant happen.

The ceremony will feature speeches and music. It will also include a rose ceremony and candle lighting.

Donor families will have the opportunity to write the name of their loved one on a card. Later, the emcee of the event, KTVI-TV news anchor Tom O’Neal, will read the names off the cards and family members will come to the stage to receive a rose. 

Roses will be handed out by organ and tissue recipients from the area’s transplant centers. Kidney transplant recipient Emily Rodenbeck and lung transplant recipient Rory McCue will represent Barnes-Jewish Hospital. It’s a chance to remember, and celebrate the gift of life.

Family members will also have the chance to decorate large votive candles, which will light up the night around the memorial park. At the end of the ceremony, everyone will light a smaller candle in tribute to organ and tissue donors, and honoring those who make the generous choice to donate.

Votive candles decorated by donor family members during the 2011 MTS Candlelight Memorial Celebration 

If you can’t attend the candlelight memorial ceremony on Sunday, we’ll be tweeting starting at 6pm. Follow us on twitter with the tag #MTSCeremony.

How to start saving lives today – MidAmerica Transplant Services tells you how

April 11, 2012

Editor’s note: This is the first in a seven part series on the donation process as submitted by Justin Phelps, a communications coordinator at Mid-America Transplant Services (MTS). He will guest blog periodically in 2012 to give our readers a better understanding of MTS and the services it provides. He may be reached at jphelps@mts-stl.org.

You can help the 1,300 St. Louisans in need of a lifesaving transplant. Here’s how:

The organ and tissue donation process starts with you, and it can start today. Joining the donor registry and telling your family your wishes to be an organ and tissue donor is the most important step. Without consent, the ability to donate may be lost if your family decides after your death not to donate your organs.

The donor registry is a volunteer and confidential list of individuals who have decided to give the gift of life. Often individuals rule themselves out of donation. “No one would want my organs,” they tell our staff, followed by a reason like age, weight, or a vice. There are 113,000 people nationwide waiting for organs. More than 1,300 of those are in St. Louis alone.  

That’s 1,300 people in St. Louis who need a lifesaving organ, who anxiously await the gift of life. Even if only one of your organs is healthy enough for transplant, that’s one life you saved. On average, though, each organ donor at MTS saved more than three lives each last year. Additionally, tissue donors enhance thousands of lives each year.

By the way, Donate Life New England(DNLE) put together a great video encouraging people of all ages to register. DLNE is a sister state team to Donate LifeMissouri and Donate LifeIllinois, both of which are supported by MTS through personnel resources. These state teams are made up of state organ procurement organizations (OPOs) and other agencies associated with organ and tissue donation. Each state team is under the Donate LifeAmerica umbrella.

Consider these numbers: About 25,000 deaths are reported each year in MTS’s service area. Because organ donation is possible only in rare circumstances, 188 were eligible for donation last year. Of those eligible, 34 families decided not to donate. That means MTS coordinated the donation process for 156 organ donors last year.  About 150 donors for about 1,300 people needing lifesaving organs. You can help bridge the gap by registering online

The criteria for becoming a tissue donor are not as stringent as those for becoming an organ donor. The MTS area has almost 5,000 people eligible for tissue donation annually, but only about 1,100 become donors. These 1,100 heroes enhance the lives of thousands of people.

For every donation, MTS meets the donor families’ needs of compassion and information, and acts as a responsible steward of their loved one’s gift of life by coordinating the placement of the donated organs and tissue to the community for those in need. 

At the time of your death, a family support specialist from MTS will talk with your family about organ and tissue donation. We work with doctors and nurses to determine which organs and tissues can be donated. This testing will include checking the health and viability of organs and tissue.

As mentioned earlier, organ donation is possible only in rare circumstances. The opportunity to recover organs is dependent on the manner of the individual’s death, a situation known as brain death which is extremely rare. Unfortunately, only about one percent of the population will even have their organs tested because of this requirement. This is why registering is so important to those 1,300 St. Louisans waiting for a live-saving organ.  

You can also help spread awareness about the gift of life during April, which is National Donate Life Month. Donate LifeAmerica has created events for its “20 Million in 2012” campaign, which aims to register 20 million people as organ donors in 2012.

Among those projects is National Blue and Green Day on April 20. Wear blue and/or green on this date, tell people why and post to the Donate Life Missouri Facebook page. You can set up a registry drive at your church or with your employer. MTS provides an event kit to get you started. And you can follow Donate Life America on Facebook and share with your friends their 365 Stories of Hope.

With so many opportunities and so many patients waiting for a lifesaving transplant, we hope you’ll join us in sharing the message of organ and tissue donation.

MTS is one link in transplantation process

February 24, 2012

Editor’s note: Justin Phelps is a communications coordinator at Mid-America Transplant Services (MTS). He will guest blog periodically in 2012 to give our readers a better understanding of MTS and the services it

Mid-America Transplant Services' donor memorial

provides. He may be reached at jphelps@mts-stl.org.

First, we at Mid-America Transplant Services would like to thank our friends at Barnes-Jewish Hospital for linking to our website often through this blog, and for inviting us to guest blog occasionally for the foreseeable future. We enjoy a great partnership with Barnes-Jewish.  

If you’ve not clicked on a link to MTS (and even if you have), I’m here to explain who we are and what we do.

MTS is the region’s Organ Procurement Organization (OPO) based in St. Louis.  An OPO is a non-profit organization responsible for coordinating the organ and tissue donation process at the hospitals within its service area and for increasing donor registration in its service area. MTS covers eastern Missouri, southern Illinois and northeastern Arkansas as designated by the federal government. We are one of 58 OPOs in the nation.

MTS was originally formed by six surgical pioneers in the 1960s. With Barnes Hospital and Saint Louis University Hospital operating competing transplant programs, this group of doctors created the Regional Dialysis Transplant Association (RDTA). The objective was to establish a fair allocation system for organ recovery with the passage of the 1969 Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, which legalized organ and tissue donation.

After a few name changes, the addition of current CEO Dean F. Kappel in 1986, and an organizational shift in focus from recipients to donor families, RDTA become Mid-America Transplant Services in 1990. Along its journey, MTS was the first OPO in the world to build an on-site surgical facility for organ recovery. This innovation streamlined the organ recovery process by allowing hospitals to care for patients while MTS monitored and prepared donors for recovery at its own custom-built facility. It also reduced delays to ensure a timely funeral for the donor family.

The work of MTS, by its very nature, requires a level of care and compassion that can only be delivered by the “human touch.” Our goals are directly linked to creating a meaningful donation experience for everyone involved. Our compassion for everyone – donor families, recipients, hospital partners, each other, etc. – is a hallmark of our organization.  We’re especially honored to support the Donor Family through the process, and humbled daily by their generosity.

Back to our responsibilities … Increasing donor registration is a huge initiative for MTS in 2012. A year-long study revealed that in St. Louis city a low number of individuals have joined the donor registry. MTS is now working in this area to increase donor registrations at the license offices, where 98 percent of registrations occur.

Additionally, MTS staff provides in-service training to hospital staff on the donation process, utilizes registry drives through the community to spread awareness (http://www.mts-stl.org/get-involved/register-for-donation/event-kits/), and invites area classrooms to attend an on-site program which includes a tour of our facility (http://www.mts-stl.org/learn/resources-for-teachers/).

The coordination of donation is a process we’ll address in the near future with a series here. In short though, MTS partner with the hospitals in its service area to be notified of every death that occurs in these hospitals. That notification triggers the entire process. After donation, MTS offers a number of services to the Donor Family and transplant recipients through the Center for Life (http://www.mts-stl.org/support/center-for-life/) and volunteer opportunities (http://www.mts-stl.org/get-involved/become-a-volunteer/), which we’ll discuss more in depth at a later date.

Today, MTS serves more than 110 donor hospitals with a mission to save lives through excellence in organ and tissue donation. We hope you’ll join us by registering – and encouraging others to register – at www.donatelife.net/register-now/ .

From the Barnes-Jewish social media team: 1. Did we mention how thrilled we are to have Justin guest blogging for us on behalf of  Mid-America Transplant Services? 2. If you want to learn more about MTS and the great group of people who work there, check out their video: http://youtu.be/uyyTeH-Dofk

“Sempre Gumby” recipient helps raise awareness of need for organs

February 1, 2012

Our partners at Mid-America Transplant Services (MTS), the region’s organ

Billy Keys

procurement organization, are participating in a very cool initiative.

Donate Life America is posting “365 Stories of Hope” on their Facebook page.  They’ll be posting one transplant story a day all year from around the country. Each state takes one week. This is Missouri’s week and MTS will be posting stories today and Saturday. The “Stories of Hope”  project is part of Donate Life’s “20 Million in 2012” campaign. That’s right, they plan on getting 20 million Americans to sign up as organ donors, to which I say – you go, Donate Life!

If you’re not a Facebook user, you can check out the story  on the MTS website. It tells of Coast Guard recruiter Billy Keys and his wife, Madelena, who learned that the military phrase “Sempre Gumby,” meaning “always flexible,” is a good thing for transplant recipients to remember.

By the way, Billy received his transplant at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

-Kathy Holleman

Milestone year for lung transplant at Barnes-Jewish

January 20, 2012

Last year was a very good year for lung transplant at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Usually, the program averages about 55 transplants a year. But in 2011, Washington University surgeons performed 75 transplant procedures – the most in the program’s 23-year history.

Why the big jump?

It was a combination of having both a large number of donor organs available and a big enough pool of potential recipients to use those organs, say the transplant doctors.

Dr. Alec Patterson, Washington University chief of the division of cardiothoracic surgery, credits the robust efforts of Mid-America Transplant Services (MTS), the area’s organ procurement organization.

“MTS does an outstanding job in donor indentification and management,” he says.

Having a large pool of people on the waiting list at Barnes-Jewish Hospital increased the likelihood of availabe donor organs actually being used, says Washington University surgeon Dr.  Bryan Meyers,  section chief of cardiothoracic surgery.

“The best insurance a program has for the full utilization of potential donor lungs is to have a deep cohort of patients awaiting transplantation,” says Meyers. “There are often issues that make one potential recipient unsuitable for a specific set of donor lungs. If you have a small number of potential recipients, you are bound to get offers for lungs that you cannot use because of issues like those. However, with a larger cadre of potential recipients, you are far less likely to ‘pass’ when offered some donor lungs.”

To be able to have that large pool of patients, you need the medical staff t0 manage the care of those patients and make sure that they’re in the best shape possible before surgery, so that they survive the operation and then do well after surgery.

Meyers credits the Washington University transplant pulmonologists, led by Dr. Bert Trulock for doing just that.

“Our pulmonology team spends countless hours in clinic managing for this large and complex group of potential recipients, preparing them for eventual transplantation,” says Meyers. “Their management of post-transplant care gives patients the best chance for excellent outcomes.”

Then, of course, you need to have enough surgeons on hand to be able to transplant any lung that become available.  

“We currently have five thoracic surgeons who are involved in the lung transplant operations,” Meyers says. “This deep pool of surgeons makes it highly unlikely that we might lose out on a potentially useful donor due to the lack of availability of a surgeon. While this event would have been rare in the past, it is virtually impossible now with the current staffing of thoracic surgeons.”

Watch here to see what Dr. Meyers takes great pride in:


A mom tells why donation was the “right thing to do”

November 15, 2011

Our partners at Mid-America Transplant Services, the region’s organ procurement organization, have a video by  donor mom June Laschober in their newest online newletter.

She talks about her son, Scott Laschober, a “teddy bear” of  a young man, who died  just as his life was starting to come together. June tells how in the face of this tragedy, making the decision to donate her son’s organs and tissue was “the right thing to do.” 

For anyone wondering what it’s like to make the decision to donate, this video answers that question. For organ or tissue recipients who may feel survivor’s guilt about getting the chance to live because someone else died, this video should be comforting.

Click here to take a look.


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