organ donor

Penn Highlands Healthcare Promotes Organ Donation Awareness

There are nearly 121,000 men, women and children waiting for organ transplants in the U.S. and 250,000 awaiting tissue and cornea transplant each day.

That is why Penn Highlands Healthcare and other hospitals celebrate April as National Donate Life Month. They celebrate the success stories and, along with CORE, encourage people to become organ donors.

CORE is the Center for Organ Recovery & Education. It is one of 58 federally designated not-for-profit organ procurement organizations in the United States. It works closely with donor families and designated health care professionals to deliver the gift of hope by coordinating the surgical recovery of organs, tissues and corneas for transplantation. CORE also helps with the computerized matching of donated organs, tissues and corneas with those who need them.

With headquarters in Pittsburgh and an office in Charleston, W. Va., CORE oversees a region of 155 hospitals, including Penn Highlands Brookville, Penn Highlands Clearfield, Penn Highlands DuBois and Penn Highlands Elk.

Though transplants are not done at Penn Highlands Healthcare, people who need organ transplants are seen by physicians and staff regularly here.

“The role of the hospitals has never been more important than now with so many people waiting for transplants,” Debra Thomas, RN, chief nursing officer and liaison to CORE at PH Brookville, said. “According to statistics, At least 18 will die each day without receiving an organ transplant, including two from our CORE Service area.”

“Becoming an organ, tissue or eye donor is an incredible and noble gift because you can give someone a second chance at life,” Cindy Salerno, RN, director of the Med/Surg Department, Pediatric Unit and Intermediate Care Unit, and liaison to CORE, at PH Elk, said.

Donors can be people who have made the decision to donate their organs after they pass or people who donate an organ – such as liver or kidney – while they are alive and well.

The easiest way to help is to agree to become an organ donor when you die. Checking the box to have “organ donor” on your driver’s license is a simple way to let your wishes be known should you pass and circumstances meet the requirements for donation.

The manner in which a person dies determines what organs and tissues can be donated. In most cases, people who are evaluated for organ donation have suffered fatal head injuries resulting from a car accident, stroke or a brain aneurysm. Traditional organ donation requires a person to be in a hospital and on a ventilator when they are pronounced brain dead.

If a person experiences cardiac death, which means the heart has stopped and will not work again, they will be evaluated for tissue and cornea donation.

“Of the 2.2 million people who die each year, only approximately 2 percent of them are able to be organ donors,” Lisa Rorabaugh, director of Patient Safety, Risk Management and Customer Service at PH Clearfield, said.

And she reminds everyone that “a person is not evaluated for organ donation until all life saving measures have been attempted. For the hospital and the first responders, their sole purpose is to save the life of the patient. The doctors will do everything in their power to try to save the life of the individual. And, the hospital staff working to save the patient’s life is completely separate from the transplant team. A person must be pronounced dead in order for organ and tissue donation to proceed.”

If a person is a donor and meets criteria, a team from CORE is called to talk to the family, perform any surgeries and transport the life-saving organ(s) to a hospital for the transplant.

“By donating organs, one individual can help up to eight people, while tissue donors can improve the lives of up to 50 people,” Barbara Barnett, RN, nursing supervisor of PH DuBois, said. “Each day, a million people await tissue and cornea transplants, while every 10 minutes someone new is added to the organ list.”

“The heart, kidney, pancreas, lungs, liver and intestines can all be transplanted as life-saving organs,” Amy Powell, RN, Emergency Department supervisor of PH Brookville said. “Tissues such as bones, ligaments, and tendons are needed for vital surgical procedures to repair injured or diseased joints and bones. Corneas, heart valves and skin are also able to be donated.”

“Though the majority of organ donations occur after a donor has died, living donation is possible with certain organs and tissues,” Wendy Reynolds, RN, Case Management of PH DuBois said. “This enables doctors to save more people in desperate need of a transplant. Living kidney and liver donors can range from family members and friends to anonymous individuals if they meet the requirements to donate. CORE can also work with coordinating these donations, as well.”

What types of organs are supplied by living donors?
• Kidney – Individuals can donate one of their two kidneys to a recipient, making this the most common form of living organ donation. Although donors will see a decrease in kidney function after donation, their remaining kidney will function properly in working to remove waste from the body.
• Liver (one lobe) – People can donate one of two lobes of their liver. The liver cells in the remaining lobes of the liver regenerate after the donation until the organ has regrown to almost its original size. This occurs in both the donor and recipient
• Lung (one lobe) – Lung lobes do not regenerate, but individuals can donate a lobe of one lung. Living lung donation occurs when two adults give the right and left lower lobes (from each respectively) to a recipient. The donor’s lungs must be the right volume and size to be a correct match.

CORE is often involved in matching living donors to recipients – some are family or friends. Others are not. Some donors may not have an intended recipient and just want to help. Others may not be able to help someone they know, but offer to help another patient.

To learn more about organ donation, Penn Highlands encourages you to go to or to sign up to become a donor, go to

Note: You can also celebrate Blue and Green Day on Friday, April 21, to show your support for organ donation. Wear blue and green to work, offer blue and green treats to friends or decorate with blue and green. Those who participate are welcome to post their photos on the Penn Highlands Healthcare Facebook page with #DonateLifeMonth.