I scrubbed on an organ harvest yesterday. I'm still processing it.

  1. This post brought me a lot of peace. Three years ago a dear friend died very unexpectedly. They were an organ donor and several of their organs were able to be harvested. It was comforting to think that a part of them lives on and gave others a new chance at life, but thinking that the OR team might have been as respectful as yours is gives me a further sense of comfort. Thank you for sharing

  2. I’m sorry about your friend, and I’m sure the OR team was every bit as empathetic and sensitive as our team here is. Thank you for sharing that with me.

  3. Hi. My sister was a donor. They kept her on life support until they found recipients. She has four kids 24,16(M) and 14,6(F). One for each day they kept her ‘alive’. Things kept getting pushed back to the point the kids said their ‘goodbyes’ at least twice. I was so overwhelmed. She wasn’t married so technically her 24 y/o son was next of kin. There was an indescribable helplessness when I got all the kids together. Auntie, can we just pretend she’s still alive? Was what my 6 y/o niece asked me. I did my best to explain she’d live on through her donation but whatever she needed to do, feel, say to process was okay. My nephew, 24, as next of kin, was asked about funeral homes. I almost threw up. My husband and I took care of everything because what 24 y/o college kid plans or saves for their mom’s cremation?

  4. Hi - thank you for sharing your story. That really hurts to hear how her kids were, of course, so hurt. When my own sister died my girls asked if the hospital was sure. They were only a little older than your youngest niece.

  5. Thank you for writing this. I’m so passionate about organ donation and the lives it can save, and this post reminded me to remind my husband how important this is to me. I’m suffering a weird mystery condition, and have been insanely morbid lately so this in a weird way gave us some levity and hope. I am willing to bet the family of the donor would love to see your words as a comfort in their time of grief, if that’s allowed/not a breach of privacy laws. ❤️❤️

  6. Wow. I can't even imagine how hard that must've been. Thank you for being strong enough to even consider doing this.

  7. As someone who’s family did make the decision to donate after a loved ones unexpected passing. This means a lot. For anyone who wants to know, the decision to donate had been discussed prior. Many in my family are choosing to donate after death. It brings an odd since of meaning to an otherwise horrifying painful time in life.

  8. This was a beautiful read. My heart aches for anyone and everyone involved in processes like these. Thank you for not only raising awareness, but raising empathy for all of our dedicated medical teams out there. You guys really make the world go round, and I hope that you're able to take time and process such intense situations with as much care you give your patients. Thank you again.

  9. I have tears rolling down my face reading this. I’ve never had to make the decision myself but it’s something I’ve thought about a lot. I’m on the organ donar register, my husband knows I am and we’ve spoken to our children about it. Last year I almost died (gangrenous intestine) and my husband said the thought of making that decision tore him up.

  10. I've never realized before that by doing an organ harvest, you are effectively ending the patient's life, even though they are already brain dead.

  11. You’re right, and that part was very hard for me. It’s true that they were never going to live separate from a ventilator, but being on the team that takes that final step haunts me. Thanks for your reply.

  12. You’re doing lifesaving work. The donors come to you with their fate sealed, but you’re a member of the team who unseals the fates of others you save and grants them the miracle of time. Nothing else in Heaven or Earth can pull off this miracle; only a team of people like you.

  13. No I fully appreciate that their agreeing to donate what they can’t use anymore is life changing for the recipients. The transplant team who does 200 plus of these per year is probably more focused on the recipients, but I will never see them. I only see the donors, and that rarely.

  14. Thank you. We lost my teenage cousin several years back. I know he was kept on life support until his immediate family could say goodbye, and his organs were donated. He was a healthy, strapping, 15-year-old boy and something very upsetting happened in his life, and he did something rash and permanent about it 😔

  15. I’m so sorry to hear it. Losing a young person whose life was so full of promise has to be devastating. I’m sure the team who helped with his surgery were hurting too.

  16. When my mom passed suddenly, we were glad to know she was able to donate some organs. Thank you so much for writing this, it makes me appreciate the medical community all the more. I know you see a lot of patients, and it’s hard to acknowledge all of them as people rather than just another patient after so many, but it means a lot to know my mom’s contribution was appreciated on the worst day of my life.

  17. As someone who's on a transplant waiting list people such as yourself and families who are willing to have their loved ones donate give me hope. The work you do and the family's willing to help save lives and give others the chance at life again. Thank you.

  18. My dad has a heart transplant. Thanks for typing this. I have only ever thought about the donor and their family. I never even once thought about the job of the ones taking out the organs. I feel like an a-hole! I will include you all in my thoughts and make sure to add this to the conversation when the subject comes up about my dad's heart, or organ donation! People need to be more aware of this. I am not happy that I have not thought about this even once in the 16 years that my dad has had his transplant. Ugh! Thank you for your great work and for taking the time to post. I really appreciate it, and YOU!

  19. Thank you for your words, and I don't think badly of you - you didn't know what you didn't know. I had never even heard of a surgical tech, or given much thought to surgery, until I saw it in the college catalog. Many other CST's I know didn't either. My sister even had to have brain surgery and I never thought of anyone but the surgeon. I'm glad to shed a little more light on our role in the OR.

  20. I've never really thought about the surgical team during organ donations. Thank you for caring, it makes me feel even better for being on the donation register.

  21. this is very sweet. personally, I'm an organ donor, and I couldn't care less what yall do to my body after I die. drop me on the ground, play connect the dots with my acne scars, throw me in a dumpster... if I'm dead, why would I care? do whatever you want.

  22. I used to be a part of getting the organs in the air and on their way to the recipient, or having crews waiting for incoming organs. It was routine and we were so far removed from patients, but I always had this pause in my heart, and a clench in my belly for the mammas, all of them.

  23. You see the person, not just their organs. Thanks for giving the insight to the 'other' side of a life-saving organ donation. Every step matters. Every person involved matters.

  24. I know I signed up to be an organ donor because if any part of me can benefit someone else when I die, then at least something good came of my life. I doubt there’ll be anything to take. But I guess it’s the thought, right?

  25. I am frustrated about how in my country, the Philippines, it's not a norm to make you an organ donor straight up on the driver's license. I really would like to donate my body to whoever needs it because I would prefer to get cremated anyway---even if our country is predominantly Roman Catholic and people want to be buried the traditional coffin way.

  26. Does the family still pay the medical expenses of he deceased donor if the deed is done. Or does the hospital chip in

  27. Typically (although not always, esp. in the case of living donors), there is an OPO (Organ Procurement Organization) involved. These OPOs (regulated by the government) are involved in identifying the donor, triaging them, getting consent from the families, working with UNOS (the national body that maintains the waiting lists) and working with surgeons to find matches. In that process, they actually take over responsibility for any medical care of the donor at that point (labs, hospital etc).

  28. That’s a good question, I have no idea. What a trauma that would be after the trauma of losing someone. Insurance surely pays some, assuming there is insurance. I don’t know if the transplant team bills the patient. I would hope not, but I just scrub in the OR, I stay far far away from administration.

  29. Thank you for sharing what goes on behind the scenes. It's a comfort to know that the deceased are well cared for.

  30. Thank you for doing the things few people could. I have a serious question, and you can choose not to answer if you don’t want to. When you remove the organs, is something else put in their place, so the body keeps it’s form for their families? In case they want to hold viewings or an open casket funeral before burial.

  31. It's a valid question, they did not in the cases I scrubbed on. Tbh those I saw didn't really seem to need that. One of our nurses did tell me that in certain cases there is , like if bones are removed. Maybe at the funeral home they do some cosmetic procedures, but that's just a guess. Sorry I don't have a better answer.

  32. 22 years ago, I received a donor kidney, from a deceased donor. As I’m from the UK, I don’t know the donor (I don’t know the regulations in other countries). Every day, I think of the family of the donor and the medical staff who operated.

  33. Thank you for writing. As it happens our donor's kidneys stayed here in our city, that's all I know. I do believe the process is anonymous here too, although I also believe recipients and the donors family can write to each other through the Organ Procurement Organization, if both desire.

  34. I'm just angry at myself for destroying all my organ systems over the years to the point that anything that might be harvestable after I kick it is probably going to be worthless. Idk, maybe my skin could still be useful, but that's probably about it. Shame on me.

  35. There’s science, idk if they require a perfect bill of health there but donating to science is helpful

  36. Idk, you might be surprised. We were talking to the transplant team and I asked how Covid has affected transplants, and they told me that someone who dies of Covid can still donate liver and kidneys. This I did not know. And someone who has hepatitis can donate to someone with hepatitis, and HIV patients can donate to other HIV patients, and so on with certain other illnesses too. So you never know, maybe that can motivate you going forward.

  37. You are a wonderful soul. We lost a loved one who was very young and we made the decision to donate their organs. For our family it wasn’t a question of should we it was more of a reflection of what our loved one would have wanted. Knowing that their organs saved lives gave us peace. Now knowing the care and respect the organ transplant team would have given our loved one that solidifies that peace.

  38. I knew someone who had to do one of a baby and ugh omg the emotions of it all. That baby ended up saving at least like 9 lives and her heartbroken mother is now an advocate for organ donations. She does speeches and events for this. She got some hate from people who insisted that the doctors allowed her baby to perish when she insisted that the medical team did everything they could to save her baby girl but her little body gave up. It was a bad car accident caused by a drunk driver. I admire the strength of that mother. I don't know what I would have done. I admire anyone able to turn unspeakable tragedy into compassionate help for the community.

  39. Thank you for writing, and yes babies are the hardest. When I was younger and had very young ones at home that was one I declined to do. There was another tech who had no children who scrubbed it, not to say that she didn't feel it. She just didn't have the problem that I would have had of seeing my own child on the table.

  40. A friend’s son died, years ago, at age 7. His organs were donated. The donation substantially helped whichever other children needed those tiny organs, probably helped them live, but the immeasurable grief of that whole process is just gut wrenching. It’s actually heartening to know that the medical team would have felt a part of that, that it wouldn’t have just been impersonal parts. Although I’m now realizing that being the medical team to harvest the organs of a small child must also be pretty traumatic

  41. That's the standing orders on my donor card; when I die, salvage any parts they can use; right down to blood and bone marrow if it applies. While I'm not in any way a medical professional, I can't help but feel for anyone grieving, as the first time it happened to me with someone close, it was my father.

  42. For what a random comment is worth, thank you, and if I'm ever in that spot, where I've had some tragedy -- I would feel grateful that part of my body was still getting some use, instead of just ending. Hopefully some part of your patient would have had a similar mindset.

  43. My sister received a double lung transplant 3 years ago. She had CF, and i remember waiting by her bed side for three weeks while she was in a coma and on ecmo, waiting for new lungs to come. When the doctor finally told us they had lungs for her, I can't describe what that was like. It was very bittersweet. A feeling of absurd joy for us, but grief for another. The moment felt bigger then all of us. Those lungs gave us over a year and a half of more time with her. We had another Christmas together, another Thanksgiving. We got to spend time and share love that had those lungs not come in would have been lost. I can't praise organs donors and their families enough. It means everything to recipients and their families. My sister was my best friend, and it gave me time with her and memories that sustain me until I see her again.

  44. So glad you got more time with your sister, on the other side of the transplant process from where I work. This is what the donors/families are hoping for - that their loss will relieve the pain someone else is suffering, and bring renewed life and hope. It helps me through my feelings of pain for the donor's family too, they did not hesitate in their decision. I know they are hoping for the recipients to have long life, and their family to have happiness.

  45. My friend got a donated ligament for her knee, and she got a pre-adressed envelope so she could send a thank you letter to the donor's family which I thought was pretty cool.

  46. This post makes me very emotional, my relationship with death is one of fear that I try to grapple with by thinking how pieces of us will live on long after we can no longer wake up in the morning and do our favorite things. Grateful for you.

  47. Right, same here. I couldn't help but think how I would feel if it were he who there, with another team taking care of him. That hurts so much, but gives me an idea what the other patient's family felt like.

  48. I became and organ donor when my uncle I was really close too passed away from a surprise stroke. My cousins and my siblings and I all grew up really close like sisters and we still are close. So his death was very hard for all of us.

  49. I've been a registered organ donor for years now, but I've never given any thought to what the actual process would be until now.

  50. Thank you for writing this. I am a nurse that works in the ICU, and we unfortunately take care of a lot of patients that unfortunately do not leave the hospital and donate their organs. I have taken patients to the OR as donors with their families while they say goodbye. We view it as we did absolutely everything we could, and unfortunately all the medicine we currently have available was not able to save this person’s life. But they will save other lives. No one gets used to this, but it is our job. And every single patient that receives a donated organ is incredibly grateful.

  51. Thank you for your part in the process. It must be even harder for you and other ICU nurses as you get to know the patient and their family, and see the raw grief first hand. I thank you for everything you do, all the time you put in, the hard work, the sweat and sometimes the tears. From one healthcare worker to another I salute you

  52. 22 years ago, I received a donor kidney, from a deceased donor. As I’m from the UK, I don’t know the donor (I don’t know the regulations in other countries). Every day, I think of the family of the donor and the medical staff who operated.

  53. Strangely, I have scrubbed on cornea transplant surgeries at a surgical center where I worked. It was called DSAEK. I am very happy for your family member, I'm glad that the cornea's made such a difference for her.

  54. Wow, this brought tears to my eyes. So heartfelt and compassionate. I don't believe there is a bigger gift that can be given other than the gift of life and sacrificing one's one body, blood, and tissue to save the life of another goes into a different realm of humanity.

  55. Wow. I don't blame you, she made it sound like they're a pack of vampires rather than what they are, I wonder how many other people she turned off with that implication. Hopefully she will either leave, or stop portraying the doctors and nurses as organ recruiters for her. And thank you for being more sensitive about potential donors. They (and you) deserve someone better than her.

  56. We call them “procurements” at my hospital and I am super jaded about them. Our particular OPO can be a bunch of slime balls. All my kids are donors and I will do everything I can to make sure that if they fit the criteria they are one but I will never donate (or receive). The recipient end of it is depressing too. I feel your pain and I’m sorry. :(

  57. I really hope I don’t seem like an emotionless jerk for asking something like this, but what does the op mean by scrubbing on an organ harvest, I don’t understand it.

  58. Sorry, I’m a surgical tech, also known in the past as a scrub nurse. The surgeon, the assistant (if there is one) and the surgical tech “scrub” our hands and arms with antibacterial solution before putting on the sterile gowns and gloves for surgery. We shortened it to just scrub, to say we took part in a surgery. An organ harvest, also known as organ procurement or organ recovery, is when a person is brain dead. They would never regain any consciousness, never live except connected to a ventilator, and the family - or the patient if they designated themselves an organ donor on their drivers license - allow the transplant team to remove their organs to be transplanted in someone who needs them. Kidneys, liver, lungs, heart, sometimes other body parts are the main ones. Of course the process ends the life of the patient, or their physical body, though the conscious life had gone out before the procedure.

  59. Thank you for what you did and do . But please refrain from calling it harvesting. It's really a ghoulish and frowned upon term in those people who work with donors and recipients.

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