BC Transplant has an incredible group of Surgical Recovery Specialists (SRS) who are part of the direct action behind the process of organ donation and transplantation. These individuals have generally come to BCT with a background in nursing and are prepared to work similar hours to front-line staff - ready to head to the hospital at any time when there is a potential donor. We interviewed a few staff from the SRS group to learn more about their important role on BCT’s Organ Donation and Hospital Development team.
Hear more from Lisa Wattham who has been with the team for just over a year.
The SRS plays a significant role in the retrieval and preparation for transportation of the organ, however, there is work leading up to it to prepare for the retrieval. When there is a potential donor, BCT’s Organ Donation Specialists (ODS) start the process. They receive the referral from the hospital of a potential donor, get consent from the family, and handle the logistics behind the various tests and examinations that must be done to determine eligibility. They also start the paperwork for the transportation of the organ(s) which is then handed over to the SRS to continue managing the logistics and prepare for the retrieval.
Kirsten Cote, shares more about the detailed process of her SRS role when there is an active case.
“I am usually up very early (3am-4am) and head to the office to pack up for the case, which usually entails probably 100-200 pounds of equipment. If it’s a fly-out case, I’ll head to the airport to board either a plane or a helicopter, and if it’s local I’ll drive to the donor hospital. Once there, we help the Organ Recover Assistant and RNs set up the OR and direct staff on what is needed, and brief anesthesia and the staff on what’s about to happen. I meet with the donor’s family, liaise between ICU and the OR, and run the case when the donor comes to the OR. We perfuse the organs, and I will package, transport, and deliver the organs to their respective hospitals or send them on ambulances if it’s heart or lungs. I then finish all the paperwork/charting on the case and return all the supplies. A work day for us when doing a case can be anywhere between 12 to 16 hours or more.”
Jeevan Kang has been with BCT for five years and details her experiences over the years, including the most rewarding part:
All of our Surgical Recovery Specialists have echoed that the most rewarding part of the job is seeing the impact of organ donation. There is so much positivity, hope and gratitude that results from every single case and they experience how special it is to be a part of that process. There is a recipient receiving a second chance at life and there are donor family members who find hope and some relief knowing that although their loved one is gone, they are leaving behind a legacy of giving someone else a second chance at life.
“I’d have to say the most challenging part is to witness the family saying goodbye to their loved one. Often times we are there walking with the family and the patient right up to the OR doors, and it never gets easy witnessing that moment. The hours can also be very grueling, and we have to be “on” at all times when we are on call which can really affect your personal life,” shares Kirsten.
Despite the challenges, many of the SRS’ share that one of the main highlights of this role is being in the OR for the retrieval of the organ. Kim Savory, who triples up on three roles including SRS, ODS and Clinical Practice Lead, shares that her “favourite part of being an SRS is being in the operating room; the real action happens in the OR where we support the process of the retrieval, profusion, and packaging of the organ. I really love being on my feet and the hands-on component of it. It’s an amazing feeling to know that at the end of this, someone will be getting a second chance at life.”
Kim also appreciates the education side of her role. “I attend classes to educate nurses and secondary students on the impact and process of organ donation and transplantation. Many people are not aware of organ donation and the circumstances that arise where many individuals require another organ to drastically improve their quality of life or ultimately to continue living life. Therefore, there is so much power to sharing the knowledge and process behind it to inspire others to take interest in the topic, work in our field and perhaps register to be an organ donor.”
The SRS team plays a significant role at BC Transplant and we are so grateful for their hard work and dedication. Their role is critical to how many lives they directly impact. Organ donation is truly a beautiful journey and it is so wonderful to understand the various individuals and components that come together to continue giving hundreds of people a second chance at life. As it is National Organ Tissue Donation Awareness Week, it was the perfect opportunity to profile an important team at BC Transplant.