As part of the National Donor Day celebration, observed by the donation and transplantation community every year on February 14, OneLegacy announced today that 2020 was another record-setting year for heart transplants, giving patients with end-stage heart failure or severe coronary artery disease a second chance at life.
OneLegacy is the not-for-profit organ, eye and tissue recovery organization serving seven Southern California counties. Thanks to the gift of life from local donors, OneLegacy was able to work with local transplant centers to make 181 heart transplants possible, up from 176 the prior year and a 22 percent increase over the past four years. A heart transplant involves recovering a heart from a donor, usually someone who has suffered irreversible brain injury (called “brain death”), often caused by major trauma to the head, such as in an automobile accident or a stroke. After numerous clinical tests to determine the heart’s function, it is surgically recovered from the donor and transplanted into the recipient, who would otherwise die without the transplant.
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles led the nation in adult heart transplants in 2020, and according to Jon Kobashigawa, M.D., “we couldn’t have done it without OneLegacy.” Dr. Kobashigawa is director of the Heart Transplant Program and professor of Medicine at Cedars-Sinai. “Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we performed 128 heart transplants in 2020, our 2nd highest year ever. We look to OneLegacy to provide not only the heart but the testing and information we need to make the right decision for each patient who would likely die without that heart.”
One such patient whose life was saved by Dr. Kobashigawa’s program and OneLegacy is Robert Hill, PhD, a heart and kidney transplant recipient who received his transplant at Cedars Sinai in 2017. Diagnosed in 2004 with cardiomyopathy, Dr. Hill managed his condition with medication and continued his life as a single parent of three girls, while at the same time finishing his doctoral program. After experiencing severe stomach pains, he decided to visit Cedars Sinai, where he spent the next two and a half months waiting for a matching heart that would save his life. Finally, a perfect heart and kidney match was found, and he received a lifesaving transplant.
“Thanks to the gift I received from my donor, Richard, I was able to continue with my career, and I can now hug my daughters and foster relationships with family and loved ones,” said Dr. Hill. “I was also fortunate to meet my donor’s family, and we now speak often and have a wonderful relationship.” Knowing that tomorrow is never promised, Dr. Hill enjoys every moment in his life, exercises every day, and is planning to travel more once the current pandemic is over.
Overall, in 2020 OneLegacy enabled the transplant of a record 1,661 organs from 548 donors. This marked the sixth consecutive year of record-breaking increases in lifesaving and healing organ donation and transplantation.
“Even during a pandemic, donation and transplantation continued in 2020, helping more than a thousand patients receive a second chance at life,” said OneLegacy CEO, Tom Mone. “We want to thank health care providers, donor families, recipients and transplant colleagues, who have been committed to continuing to recognize the importance of fulfilling the wishes of donors and enabling donation. We owe them a world of gratitude for their incredible dedication and for their continued caring about our community and our world.
“The opportunity to donate and to receive a lifesaving transplant knows no national, ethnic or religious boundaries, nor sexual orientation,” said Mone, while pointing out that one organ donor can save up to eight lives, and one tissue donor can help as many as 75 others heal. “That drives us to help every Southern Californian to choose to register to be an organ donor at the DMV and at donatelifecalifornia.org and to explore the option to be a living donor for a friend or family member.”
OneLegacy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives through organ, eye and tissue donation in seven counties in Southern California: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara and Kern. It serves more than 200 hospitals, 10 transplant centers, a diverse population of nearly 20 million, donors and families across the region, and waiting recipients across the country. For more information, visit onelegacy.org.