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Despite mix-up at University Hospitals, experts assure organ donation still safe

Donate Life Lifebanc
Posted at 6:00 AM, Jul 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-13 06:19:02-04

CLEVELAND — After two caregivers were placed on administrative leave following a transplant patient receiving a kidney that was intended for a different patient at University Hospitals, experts are emphasizing that organ transplants are still safe.

Heather Mekesa, chief operating officer of Lifebanc, Northeast Ohio's only nonprofit organ and tissue recovery organization, said the mix-up that happened at UH is extremely rare.

"99.9% of the time, this doesn't happen and organ donation does truly save lives," Mekesa said.

Since 1999, University Hospitals has performed more than 2,700 kidney transplants, including 95 so far this year. In that time, Mekesa said she has never heard of a mix-up with recipients until now.

Mekesa wants to ease any fears people might have about organ donations after the incident at University Hospitals because organ donation is such an important thing in Ohio and the country.

More than 110,000 Americans are on a transplant list, including 3,000 Ohioans—and one person is added to the list every 10 minutes. The biggest need is kidney transplants.

"There's almost twenty five hundred people here in Northeast Ohio waiting on that kidney transplant list," Mekesa said. "And the success rate is wonderful. But the unfortunate circumstance is there's not enough donors out there to really get that list down. And that's so important."

Amid the fears the mix-up at University Hospitals might have caused are the already prominent misconceptions about organ donations, including the belief that a life won't be saved if they're a registered organ donor.

"The hospitals or the emergency responders, they don't even look for that. They don't even have access to the donor registry," Mekesa said.

Another misconception is that is costs money to donate organs. All costs of an organ donation are incurred by the organ and tissue recovery agency.

Mekesa said that she hopes the recent and rare transplant mix-up doesn't hurt the organ donation registry.

"This incredibly rare, uncommon mix up shouldn't deter anybody from signing up on that donor registry and giving someone a second chance if possible," Mekesa said.

To learn more about organ donation and Lifebanc, click here.

RELATED: 'Hard to imagine': Former UH kidney transplant patients react to recipient mix-up

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