2020: A Record-Breaking Year

Midwest Transplant Network’s lifesaving and life-enhancing work continued in 2020, despite the pandemic. We coordinated a record number of organ donations for an increase of 21% from our previous record (set in 2019), recovered tissues from nearly 2,000 donors and enabled nearly 900 organ transplants.

We are incredibly grateful for our donor heroes and their families, our community partners and our staff members for helping us give the gift of life to so many in need during a challenging year.

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Thank you, healthcare and front-line heroes

2020 in Review

Despite the many challenges MTN and organizations globally faced, 2020 was a year of true heroism as we worked with our community partners to save and enhance lives through organ, eye and tissue donation. None of these incredible gifts would be possible without our generous donors and their families. Thank you to everyone who played a role in our 2020 successes!

Take a look back at our remarkable year:


Ryan Hampel

Honoring the “Coolest 3-Year-Old” in Support of Organ, Eye and Tissue Donation

Ryan HampelAccording to Matt Hampel, his youngest daughter, Ryan, was a force to be reckoned with: She was cool, polite, loving and smart, with a smile that could light up any room.

When 3-year-old Ryan’s life was tragically cut short in a multi-car crash, Matt and Ryan’s mother made the courageous and selfless decision to donate her organs so that others could live. Matt said that, “while you feel like everything around you is going wrong, you have an obligation to do what’s right.”

Just a few weeks after Ryan’s death, friends of Matt’s organized a baseball tournament to honor Ryan and support Matt, who had been severely injured in the same crash. In the three years since, Matt and his wife, Heather, have organized the tournament and grown it exponentially, generously donating all proceeds to Midwest Transplant Network. They held their biggest tournament yet in August 2020, featuring 67 teams and raising nearly $30,000 — amid a pandemic, nonetheless.

Matt credits the people in his support system for not only helping him and Heather process Ryan’s death, but also for teaching Matt’s other children the importance of family, even if members of that “family” are not connected by blood.

“We took Ryan everywhere, and everybody knew her, and everybody knows my other two girls,” he said. “I have an obligation for them to be exposed and to see the good people we have around us.”

Although the Ryan Grace Memorial Baseball Tournament is already a huge success each year, Heather said she and Matt are determined to continually improve it, creating an even greater impact on their community.

“We hope Ryan knows that we’re doing the best we can and that we are trying to spread the message of being kind,” she said.

If he could talk to Ryan today, Matt would make sure she knows exactly how loved she continues to be — by himself, her sisters, Heather and so many people in the community. “For as little as she was,” he said, “she had such a huge crater that she left.”

To learn more about the Ryan Grace Memorial Baseball Tournament, visit ryangracememorial.org.

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Laboratory Sets Milestone Amid Pandemic

In our recent blog post, we talked to Midwest Transplant Network’s Laboratory Director, Scott McDonald, about our histocompatibility lab that performs tests in support of organ, eye and tissue donation. After sharing the background of how our laboratory functions, we wanted to take a closer look at how our lab operates, as well as the volume of work our lab staff members produce and how their work has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because of the spontaneous nature of organ donation, our lab functions 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, performing the histocompatibility testing necessary to ensure the best match between donated organs and transplant recipients.

Throughout the early days of the pandemic through the present, our Laboratory Services staff members have been hard at work — even performing unusually high testing numbers for several months so far in 2020. They recently set a milestone by performing a record 3,000 tests in the months of June, July and August, while meeting established turnaround times 94% of the time.

The pandemic initially significantly impacted laboratory testing, as many transplant centers put certain transplants on hold. Once hospitals and health systems received COVID-19 screening tests, they could resume transplantation services that were previously on hold. Since then, requests for MTN’s laboratory services have only risen.

The team has adjusted to these increased demands by implementing 24/7 staffing shifts, working with an administrator on call for oversight, and prioritizing each request for patient and donor testing. They continually seek opportunities to improve services as their testing numbers continue to grow.

Maintaining a commitment to their lifesaving work and consistently striving to achieve the highest standards, MTN Laboratory Services staff members exceed expectations while also facing an extreme public health crisis. Together with their clinical coworkers in MTN’s Organ Procurement and Tissue Procurement departments and their non-clinical colleagues, our Laboratory Services team saves lives by honoring the gift of organ and tissue donation with dignity and compassion.

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MTN Laboratory Services

Did you know that Midwest Transplant Network provides state-of-the-art histocompatibility testing for transplant and cancer centers across Kansas and western Missouri? We are a leader in HLA testing and the designated organ procurement organization (OPO) lab that provides histocompatibility services for organ transplantation throughout MTN’s service area. But what is HLA testing? And why are histocompatibility services important? We recently asked our Laboratory Director, Scott McDonald, to answer a few questions about the lab and the tests they perform to help better understand this crucial work and its impact on organ, eye and tissue donation.


Briefly describe MTN’s laboratory. 

The MTN laboratory provides histocompatibility transplant services for a population of 5.6 million, which includes five transplant centers and 15 programs. With state-of-the-art testing instruments and highly skilled staff, the MTN laboratory is focused on promoting quality services while supporting innovative advancements in the field of transplantation.


What is histocompatibility testing, and how does it come into play with organ, eye and tissue donation?

Histocompatibility testing specifically determines genetic compatibility between the patient and potential organ donor. Each person carries unique genes that, in the setting of transplant, can be seen by the recipient immune system as foreign and cause rejection. Histocompatibility testing finds the best match to prevent graft rejection.

Cornea and tissue transplants don’t require histocompatibility testing. However, infectious disease testing is required to prevent communicable disease transmission.


For what type(s) of transplant does MTN’s lab perform tests?

MTN provides histocompatibility testing services to support the following transplants:

  • Kidney
  • Pancreas
  • Heart
  • Bone marrow
  • Liver


Describe the general process for matching a donated organ to a recipient. At a high level, who and what are involved in the process?

Compatibility between donor and recipient is determined by identifying protein markers called human leukocyte antigens (HLA). This is accomplished by molecular methods, such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which uses genomic DNA isolated from donor and recipient blood. In addition, we test the recipient’s blood to make sure that they do not carry harmful antibodies that can reject the graft. We use the results of both of these procedures to identify the best possible matches between the donor and recipient to promote a successful transplant.


What area does MTN’s lab serve?

MTN’s laboratory is the designated OPO histocompatibility lab for the state of Kansas and western Missouri. This includes histocompatibility services to the following transplant centers: the University of Kansas Health System, Saint Luke’s Hospital (Kansas City), Research Medical Center, University Hospital and Children’s Mercy Kansas City.