For the second consecutive year, a record number of organ and tissue donors gave the gift of life in Nebraska.
In 2020, 72 individuals donated organs, resulting in 214 organ transplants. Six hundred seventy gave gifts of donated tissue such as bone, skin and heart valves. Two hundred sixty-four new mothers donated birth tissue (placenta and umbilical cord), which provides healing for patients with chronic wounds, traumatic burns and ulcers.
Additionally, a 105-year-old donor gave the gift of life, representing the oldest donor in Live On Nebraska’s history. These milestones were achieved in spite of challenges presented by COVID-19.
“2020 was a remarkable year for donation in Nebraska,” said Kyle Herber, President & CEO of Live On Nebraska. “Our ability to save and enhance more lives than ever before was only made possible because of our dedicated staff, partners, and the selfless donors and donor families who made the decision to save lives.”
Scott Vandemark was one of those donors. Despite a previous COVID-19 diagnosis, Vandemark saved three lives through organ donation. His donated tissues have the potential to provide healing to more than 100 people in the future. The 43-year-old Woodbine, Iowa native passed away in Omaha following a series of strokes. Vandemark was a truck driver and father of two, known for his boisterous, contagious laugh.
“As we currently understand the coronavirus, any organ can potentially be transplanted from a donor who has recovered from a previous COVID-19 infection,” Morrow said. “But because the virus primarily infects the respiratory system, transplantation of lungs post-COVID infection hasn’t been embraced.”
To ensure the safety of potential recipients, two COVID PCR tests must come back negative from any potential donor. Morrow says PCR tests are highly sensitive and can even detect viral particles weeks after a patient has recovered from the virus.
Vandemark’s girlfriend, Amber Oliver, said his final gift was fitting. “He was always the guy that would go out of his way to help a stranger,” Oliver said. “With everything he owned, he felt it was better for someone else to get some use out of it if he no longer could.”
Fulfilling the Need Right now, more than 100,000 Americans need a lifesaving organ transplant; 400 of those are in Nebraska.
Every individual has the potential to save and heal more than 100 people with the donation of organs and tissues. These include: heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas, small intestine, corneas, bone, skin, tendons, veins and heart valves.
In Nebraska, anyone 16 or older can register as an organ and tissue donor. Age, health and lifestyle do not limit an individual’s ability to register.
Donor registration is available online anytime at LiveOnNebraska.org.