Natividad Medical Center increases organ donation by 40 percent

By Cristian Ponce, The Californian | ´╗┐Nov. 16, 2017

Natividad Medical Center has seen an increase of 40 percent in organ recipients since 2015 with the help of Donor Network West.

Dr. Andrew McCague, a trauma surgeon and co-director of the intensive care unit at Natividad, attributes Natividad beginning to accept trauma patients in early 2015 as a factor in the increase of organ recipients. 

“All of these people were being sent to San Jose,” said McCague. “Now they’re being managed locally and it has had such an impact on the community because their loved ones are now being treated at home.”

Donor Network West is an organ and tissue recovery organization in Northern California that collaborates with Natividad Medical Center.

One organ recipient from Donor Network West is Pati Hughes-Fudge from Tres Pinos south of Hollister.

Hughes-Fudge said she received a new liver at Stanford through Donor Network West in 2015 and is now an ambassador for the organization, with one of her monthly stops being Natividad Hospital. 

Hughes-Fudge said she was unknowingly given a case of Hepatitis C after a blood transfusion in 1972. She lived with the disease without knowing for many years and began to notice her fatigue around 2000.

After getting worse year after year, including having major bleeding episodes and developing cancerous tumors on the liver, she was put on the transplant list at Stanford, said Hughes-Fudge.

“It was devastating because I’m not used to being sick and having to deal mentally with what I wasn’t able to do was the worst of it,” she said.

In late 2015, Hughes-Fudge said she received a liver transplant from a 14-year-old boy.

By replacing the liver, Hughes-Fudge was able to get rid of her cancer and after being put on new medication, was able to clear her system completely free of the Hepatitis C, she said.

According to Dr. McCague, an estimated number of more than 50 organs have been donated by more than 13 donors at Natividad since 2015. 

McCague said the hospital has done a lot since 2014 in revamping previous policies as well as implementing new ones with Donor Network West to help with their organ donation effort.

The hospital puts in their full effort to help trauma victims coming in, but in the case that they will not make it, they notify Donor Network West to see if the patient will meet the criteria to be a donor, said McCague.

If someone is not registered as a donor, McCague said they can still be donors but the family will be asked to give consent to proceed.

McCague emphasized that the community should think about becoming a donor now to make things easier for their families if an unfortunate event were to occur.

“It takes a lot of stress and questions away that the family doesn’t have to go through,” said McCague. “The family is already grieving and accepting that their loved one has passed away. Sometimes it’s hard to answer all these questions.”

Hughes-Fudge said she now tries to pay it forward as an ambassador by encouraging people to become donors.

“I try to be able to help people know what it really meant and how it affects lives,” said Fudge. “I try to make it a more palatable conversation.”

Hughes-Fudge said she had the opportunity to compete in the Transplant Games of America in 2016, bringing home multiple gold medals after competing in Olympic sports with recipients and living donors.

“I’m also an ambassador for the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) here in Hollister,” said Fudge. “They are our link to the public, so when people come in for their license, they are given the option to become a donor.”

Natividad’s efforts in raising awareness include having organ recipients like Hughes-Fudge set up a registration table to tell their story on how organ donations saved their lives, putting flyers in employee paychecks, sending emails and hosting events for the cause, said McCague.

Donor Network West recently awarded Natividad with the Emerald Award as an excellent donation partner, according to a press release on the event.

“To see the hospital awarded after a couple of years of doing that means a lot because we made an effort to organize the hospital around this issue and improve patient care to do all we can for them,” said McCague.

Natividad was also awarded a Silver award from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Workplace Partnership for Life campaign, which, according to the press release, is “a national initiative that unties the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the organ donation community with workplaces throughout the nation to spread the word about the importance of donation.”

 
 
 

Natividad Medical Center • 1441 Constitution Blvd. • Salinas, CA 93906 • (831) 755-4111