CLEVELAND — The pandemic forced many people to put off medical procedures. But lifesaving organ transplants at the Cleveland Clinic were not one of those procedures. Transplants were up last year. Last year was a record-setting year for Cleveland Clinic’s Kidney Transplant program. It saw a 16% annual increase over 2019.
When the pandemic hit in March, transplant programs in the neighboring states of Michigan and Indiana shut down because of the need for beds for COVID-19 patients.
“So when those programs shut down because of COVID, most of the organs then because they didn’t want to waste them eventually goes to us in Ohio,” said Dr. Alvin Wee, Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Kidney Transplant Program.
He said that was one reason for the higher than normal number of transplants.
Wee said an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in July 2019 aimed at revamping kidney care and organ transplantation was the other.
Allison Rees was one of the patients who received a kidney transplant last year. She was on the waiting list about three years after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. Without Rees knowing, a friend got tested and discovered he was a perfect match.
“I was asking her questions as I was getting tested, I didn’t want to make it too obvious. She would say she didn’t want her friends to be guilted into doing it,” said Jacob Bleil, kidney donor.
When Bleil told Rees the surgery was scheduled, she instantly started crying. The operation was February 13, 2019.
Rees is doing well and so is Bleil.
“I have no difference in my quality of life, it’s not like I have to do these certain things every day, nothing has changed a year later,” he said.
But everything changed for Rees.
“There is nothing I can do or say that can do or say that can repay what he’s done for me,” said Rees.
More information about the Cleveland Clinic program can be found here.
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