their loved one isn’t eligible.
In many cases, a patient’s organs are not
accepted for donation. “A lot of these pa-
tients that we go see won’t actually become
donors,” says Paula Gutierrez, hospital
services manager with the Sharing Net-
work. “They might be too sick, they might
be experiencing organ failure, or some of
them might just get better. It’s actually very
rare that we end up speaking to the family
about organ donation.”
The team also huddles with the medi-
cal staff on-site to determine how the
family is handling the situation, what
they have been told, and who is speaking
for the family.
When it is determined that death has
occurred or there is little to no hope for
recovery, doctors will approach the family to share the news or make the declaration of death. The Sharing Net work joins
the medical staff to support the family
and to discuss the option of donation.
Staff from the Sharing Net work could
be with a family continuously for as much
as 36 hours as they await news of their
loved one and contemplate donation.
“Every family is unique and every case
is different,” Gutierrez says. “If there is
resistance, it’s mostly because they’re still
in shock and they’re dealing with loss,
but most of them will sit there and think
about it and say yes. And the kind of thing
that moves me with what I do is being
able to give the family something posi-
tive—it sounds weird, but it’s fulfilling to
be that positive ray of light.”
Once the family has decided on dona-
tion, the medical management of the donor
shifts from trying to keep the patient alive,
to maintaining organ function up until pro-
curement, or removal, of the organs. Trans-
plant coordinators, most of whom have
nursing degrees, run the ongoing tests, fill
out paperwork and, in collaboration with
a medical director from the Sharing Net-
work, guide the on-site nursing staff in the
steps needed to keep organs functioning
properly until procurement.
At this time, tissue compatibility testing
begins at the Sharing Network transplant
laboratory to determine which of the patient’s organs are candidates for transplant
A LIFE SAVED: Michele Dabal received an
unexpected liver transplant in 2005. Today,
she volunteers full-time for the Sharing Network and competes in the biennial Donate
Life Transplant Games.
At your local Motor Vehicle Agency when you apply for or renew your driver’s license or state ID.
Online at NJSharingNetwork.org
Directly with the Sharing Network. Call 800-742-7365 to request a registration form.
and with whom the organs would be compatible. Various criteria must be met, and
certain health conditions or treatments—
like having had chemotherapy within the
past five years—disqualify a patient from
donating some, if not all, organs.
As organs are approved for donation,
the transplant coordinator works with
staff in the resource center to begin pulling
up lists of potential recipients.
Computer algorithms are run through
the United Network for Organ Sharing
(UNOS) database, which generates the best
matches for each organ, factoring in blood
type, tissue compatibility, the length of
time the potential recipient has been waiting and how sick he or she is.
If the best match is in New Jersey, the
team coordinates with the six transplant
centers in the state, which are responsible
for contacting waiting recipients. If a perfect match is found to be in another state,
staffers prepare for the transport of that
organ by car, plane or helicopter.
“When it comes to placement,
we go locally, regionally and then
nationally,” says Lue Raia. “But if
there is a perfect match, that re-
cipient will get top, top priority because
we’re not only placing organs for trans-
plant, we want to make sure as much as we
can that the success rate of the transplant
is as high as possible.”
Meanwhile, members of the Sharing
Net work stay with the grieving family
as their loved one goes into surgery for
organ recovery. They continue to update
the family over several days on which
organs were transplanted, who the
recipients were, and the outcome of the
The Giles family was familiar with the
role of the Sharing Net work. As a trauma
surgeon in the emergency room, Randy
had worked on organ transplantation cases himself; his father had been asked to sit
on the board for the New Jersey Sharing Network earlier in the year before
Randy’s passing. The two men had signed
up to be organ donors together while at
a basketball game. But the Giles family is
MITCH AND ALI KOGEN were not prepared to say goodbye to their little girl.
Although their 5-year-old daughter, Riley,
had been sick all her life due to panhypo-pituitarism—she had been born without
a functioning pituitary gland—it didn’t
make it any easier when tragedy struck
the Essex County family one night in December 2013.
Riley had not been feeling well, but
her mother says there were no red flags
when they tucked her into bed. During
the night, Riley’s fever spiked, and she
suffered a seizure. When morning came,
she was rushed to the hospital, but it was
too late; Riley was in a coma.
“It was so devastating for us because
we had so many trials, so many nights
spent in the hospital, to have this one
event, this one evening,” Mitch says. “And
I was just thinking she was going to come
out of it, because that’s just who she was.
She was a fighter.”
The Sharing Net work became in-
volved when it became clear that Riley
was unlikely to recover.
“New Jersey Sharing walked in, and
they’re not clinical at all,” Mitch says.
“[Their] first words were, ‘Hi I’m from