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Organ transplants continue during pandemic

Posted at 11:49 AM, May 20, 2020

Organ donations are in a complex field of their own, and during a pandemic, it may cause even more concern for people who are already at a high risk of infection.

Greg Pruitt was one of them. In April, he was placed on a list for a heart transplant. His surgeon, Dr. Christiano Caldeira told him it could be some time before he received word of a donor.

That time turned out to be one week.

"I think when anyone gets a call at 2:19 a.m. in the morning, it takes a few minutes to absorb it," Pruitt said.

He said his concern didn't come from stepping foot inside of a hospital - a place thousands of people have avoided since the spread of the coronavirus - rather, his worry was set on the person who would not receive the heart he was granted.

If Pruitt had passed on the surgery, the heart would go to another recipient in need. The slight guilt of Pruitt's acceptance soon diminished. The patient who would have received his new heart got one of their own and had surgery shortly after.

Dr. Caldeira said that isn't always the case. He hasn't witnessed people at Largo Medical Center turn down on organ donation surgery because of fears of contracting COVID-19, but elsewhere, he said it is happening.

"They're scared to come to the hospital. They're scared to have an operation. They're scared to be in the middle of this pandemic," Dr. Caldeira said.

Dr. Caldeira said Pruitt's heart was a perfect match, but with the pandemic, extra precautionary steps have to be taken.

Ashley Moore is with LifeLink Foundation, an organization that helps in organ and tissue recovery.

She said every potential donor is tested for COVID-19 before a procedure moves forward.

"The only patients that we are ruling out at this time are those who are testing positive for active COVID-19," Moore said.

If a potential donor tests positive at the time of donation, they are ruled out.

For people like Pruitt, he said his fear of entering the hospital or a surgery room was never a concern.

"With the heightened security they have at Largo Medical Center, I felt safer in there than I already was on the street," Pruitt said. "I would do it all over again ten times if I had to."

For more information about organ donations, click here.