COVID-19 pandemic causes complications for organ donor programs
The New Jersey Sharing Network hasn't seen a dropoff in would-be organ donors during the novel coronavirus pandemic — but it is causing changes to how the organization works.
Joe Roth, president and CEO at New Jersey Sharing Network in New Providence, said the group has to rule out those who have tested positive for novel coronavirus because there's just a lot not yet known about the virus.
He said The NJ Sharing Network has been seeing a lot of organ donors testing positive for COVID-19.
"They might fit our criteria for donation if they weren't infected with the virus, and we then we would be able to approach the family — but once they test positive, they are basically out of the system. We can't use them," Roth said.
Roth said while organ transplants are still happening, many transplant programs have temporarily suspended various kinds of transplants that they do, except for in emergency situations, to preserve hospital resources for the expecting coming surge of COVID-19 patients. Hospitals have also been directed by Gov. Phil Murphy to suspend all elective procedures, as New Jersey ramps up hospital and critical care capacity.
Some living donor transplants for kidneys are being put on hold, Roth said. Those patients still have the option of being on dialysis, allowing for delays, he said.
He added that many hospitals have suspended deceased-owner transplants as well, unless a patient has reached a stage where he or she would die soon without a transplant.
You can sign up to be an organ donor at sharenj.org without ever having to go out in public.
There are more than 4,000 New Jerseyans waiting for transplants, and every week several of them die waiting, Roth said There's a shortage of viable organs for people in general — not just because of the pandemic.
He stressed that people should not be afraid of organ donation. Less than .1% of all people who sign up to become an organ donor actually become one.