One year ago — Sept. 1, 2022 — Midwest Transplant Network (MTN) opened its new Donor Care and Surgical Recovery Unit (DCU) after years of careful planning, preparation and training on the processes and technology associated with an in-house facility. Since then, with support from many hospital, professional and community partners, we have cared for 131 donor patients from 29 area hospitals in our world-class DCU. These donor heroes provided 415 lifesaving organs to those who desperately waited for a second chance.
The DCU features a seven-bed onsite intensive care unit, two state-of-the-art operating rooms, a CT scanner with technology to conference remotely with physicians, a specialty laboratory and a family support lounge for donor heroes’ loved ones to gather if desired. Patients who meet certain clinical criteria may be eligible to move to the DCU, where MTN staff members continue administering high-level critical care until surgical teams begin organ recovery.
“It’s hard to believe we have already been providing expert care to donor heroes in our DCU for a year,” said Lori Markham, RN, MSN, CCRN-K, CPTC, MTN Vice President & Chief Clinical Officer. “We had a vision to create a specialized facility in-house for many years, and seeing it come to fruition has been so powerful. I am incredibly proud of our team for all their hard work, and I am grateful for all our partners that have come together to support this new process that allows for better outcomes.”
Since the DCU opened, MTN has enabled more organs per donor to be transplanted than before, with the average number of organs transplanted per donor increasing from 3.1 pre-DCU to 3.35 post-DCU opening among the same type of donor characteristics when recovered in donor hospitals.
“We anticipated that the DCU would allow a focus solely on the process of organ donation and ultimately create better outcomes for transplant recipients,” said Jan Finn, RN, MSN, MTN President & Chief Executive Officer. “It’s an honor to fulfill the mission of MTN in this incredibly important work and also recognize the need to continue innovating and improving to honor donor heroes and their families. We are proud to see our staff and facility working so well allowing us to extend the gift of life to even more recipients and provide hope for those awaiting a transplant.”
MTN staff members are highly trained in the complexity of caring for organ donor heroes in the DCU, which was designed specifically to maximize the gift of life; this can free up critical resources in area hospitals — such as intensive care unit beds and operating rooms — to serve other patients in need.
“My team has complete confidence in sending our patients to Midwest Transplant Network’s DCU,” said Carol Perry, Senior Vice President & Chief Nursing Officer, Stormont Vail Health; MTN Advisory Board. “The state-of-the-art facility allows MTN’s team of expertly trained staff members to provide specialized care for donors as their gifts are matched with recipients and throughout the organ, eye and tissue recovery process. Knowing our donor heroes are receiving high-quality care at the DCU allows us to dedicate resources to critically ill patients in our ICU.”
Out of 56 organ procurement organizations (OPOs) in the U.S., MTN is just the 12th organization with a donor care and recovery center that is not based in a hospital. Creating the DCU is one of many tactics MTN has taken to improve donation outcomes.
“It was hard to imagine the extent of possibilities and growth that would result from the opening of the DCU — and yet, as a team, we have successfully learned how to perform our own echocardiograms and liver biopsies, take X-rays and prepare our own slides for pathology, all while continuing to provide the best care possible to our donor heroes,” said Emily Freund, BSN, RN, CPTC, MTN Organ Procurement Coordinator III. “The DCU is proving to be key in our mission to increasing gifts transplanted.”
 All DCU data pulled from Sept. 1, 2022, through July 31, 2023.