Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency, or LOPA, is the federally designated Organ Procurement Organization (OPO) for the state of Louisiana.
Organ donation begins with a decision to donate. A person registers as an organ, eye and tissue donor in the State of Louisiana by saying “YES” when getting their driver’s license or State ID, or by signing up on the Louisiana Donor Registry at www.donatelifela.org
A family discussion is strongly encouraged so that all family members, or next of kin, are aware of a person’s decision to donate.
Donors are Heroes. A donor is choosing to save and heal the lives of others when they die. People become donors through a traumatic brain injury. A traumatic brain injury is often caused by a stroke, aneurysm, or a severe head injury. Only 2% of the population will be a candidate for organ donation.
Transplants only occur at specialized facilities that perform transplants. When a person is brought to a hospital, physicians and nurses have one goal-to save that person’s life. These doctors and nurses are not focused on transplantation.
The following is an outline of the basic steps in organ donation after someone dies.
-A doctor and his staff at any hospital (within Louisiana) work to save their patient’s life. This can include mechanical ventilation, IV fluids, and medication. Once a patient is stabilized, a physician will perform tests to determine brain function. Life saving measures are continued during the testing.
-Brain death is declared by the physician. Brain death is diagnosed as an irreversible loss of blood flow to the whole brain, causing the brain to die. After brain death, the donor’s body is supported by artificial means, such as a ventilator.
-Once brain death is confirmed, LOPA, or a state’s OPO, is contacted. Only then does the OPO access the donor registry to determine the potential donor’s registry status. Hospitals, EMTs, and other first responders do not have access to verify a person’s registration as a donor.
-The OPO sends a representative to discuss the donation process with the donor’s next of kin. Whether a potential donor is registered, and even not registered, the gift of donation is presented to their family, or next of kin. This is why family discussion is highly encouraged in the community. If families have an understanding about the facts of donation, and know each other’s wishes, then donation becomes a much easier process during what is likely one of the most difficult times in those family members’ lives.
-Paperwork is finalized, and the OPO assumes care of the donor. The donor is discharged from the hospital, and readmitted back into the hospital under LOPA’s care. LOPA incurs all cost from that time, including maintaining organ function while organs are placed and recovery costs. There is never a charge to the family for donation.
-Up to 6 organs are matched for potential recovery. The donor’s blood type, height and weight are entered into UNOS’ (UNOS link here) national computer system to begin the organ allocation process. UNOS replies with appropriate candidates for the donor’s organs. Timing is very important at this stage. The OPO contacts the candidate’s transplant physician, and that patient’s doctor makes the final decision of organ acceptance for their patient.
-Once organs are reserved for a recipient, the donor is brought to the operating room for recovery. Donors are honored and respected throughout the donation process. Organs are surgically removed, and are sent to the transplant hospitals where the candidates are waiting for them. Only organs that are matched to a recipient are recovered.
-The donor is prepared for the funeral. LOPA works with the funeral director to honor the donor and donor family’s funeral wishes. Open casket funerals are possible after organ donation.
-LOPA involvement doesn’t stop at recovery; follow-up and support are offered to all donor families. LOPA family services department, at a specified time after a donation, contacts donor families. Families learn which organs were transplanted, while keeping recipient information confidential. LOPA continues to provide support such as bereavement resources, communication options for writing to recipients, and information about events where their loved one can be honored.