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Organ donations offer a second chance at life

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Updated: 5/06/2014 7:29 am
LAS VEGAS (KSNV -- Life-saving organ recovery in Nevada is thriving, and making history with its record successes. It's a challenging task, given that the slightest delay can amount to life or death.

The Nevada Donor Network transitions one inexplicable loss into another person’s second chance. CEO Joe Ferreira says his organization has done a 180-degree turn in the past two years, going from the bottom to the top in organ procurement. Southern Nevada now leads the world in recoveries per capita.

The non-profit network branches out 24 hours a day to procure -- or recover -- as many life-saving organs as possible. Galen Schoenstein sets the day in motion, monitoring potential or active brain dead patients across the region.

"It is a lot of hours, and it's strenuous work, as far as emotionally challenging, dealing with death and family grieving,” Schoenstein said.

The most integral relationship is with hospitals, which notify the Nevada Donor Network of patients declared brain dead, connecting them to organ recovery.

"One of the strategic benefits we have here in Las Vegas -- in Clark County-- is that everything tends to be fairly close together,” Ferreira said. “Meaning we are geographically near most of our major hospitals."

Once a patient is eligible to donate, family services -- arguably the most tender arm of the non-profit -- steps in. Heather Osipowicz is the liaison between loss and the gift of saving or improving another's life.

"It's unusual that our first meeting with someone is on a day that they have lost someone very important to them, and often the closest person to them in their lives,” Osipowicz said.

The Nevada Donor Network's relationship with these families can extend a year or longer after the decision to donate.

Osipowicz says there is such a thing as bringing up donation too soon. Finding the right balance rests upon the awareness that the road to mourning is traveled differently.

To connect these helping hands, more work needs to be done. The world donation leader is also a mass exporter of organs, meaning southern Nevadans on the transplant list have to look elsewhere for that second chance at life. The only transplants available in the state are kidneys.


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