WEST MONROE, LA (04/04/20)– Believe it or not, over 2,000 people in Louisiana are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. So during this unprecedented time, some are relying on social distancing to stay alive. While social distancing may seem like a small precaution, for organ recipients and donors, it can be a matter of life or death.
“It’s really important to think about everyone you interact with. They don’t always wear shirts that say “hey i’m a recipient”. So the more we can do to protect them the better,” said Kelly Ranum, CEO of Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency.
While organ transplants are still happening, the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency (LOPA) says COVID-19 has made transplant surgeries difficult because resources are limited.
“It’s hard to remember that there are other people out there that need medical care and the critical infrastructure, the ventilators, the operations to go and have your surgery,” said Ranum.
Kelly Ranum says right now, majority of hospitals are taking care of COVID-19 patients in the ICU, where ventilators are used for organ transplant surgeries. Finding the balance between getting a transplant and limiting the exposure of COVID-19 to a patient, presents yet another challenge.
“You can’t live in a scary moment. I mean I live day-to-day anyway. I live life to the fullest every day that I possibly can without being exposed,” said Katie Collins, two-time Organ Recipient.
Katie Collins had her kidney transplant back in January thanks to her brother who donated his own.
She says social distancing is something that will not only keep her new organ healthy, but keep her alive. For Collins, contracting the virus is a higher risk for her, than the average person.
“When we walk in the work place we’re exposed then, not latter. We’re exposed right then just because of a flu symptom or a cold symptom,” said Collins.
Collins says she is beyond thankful for those who stay home because she can’t, she still has doctor appointments, so she’s asking that everyone to be mindful and follow the rules.
“Looking at me you would never know anything was wrong, you would never know I had a transplant. I’m just a normal person in normal clothes,” said Collins.
So the more people who get on board, the faster the virus will end, and more transplants can be done. At this time, LOPA officials say they are not using any organs from patients who have tested positive for COVID-19. They say the need for donors is high.