When life-threatening accidents happen, the folks at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington have one goal.
"With every single patient the obvious goal of providers everywhere is save that person's life," said Darryl Arnold, the clinical donation specialist at Fletcher Allen.
Sadly, for Champlain College Freshman Peter Cernansky, that did not happen. He died in August following a longboarding accident on Spruce Street in Burlington. His family made the decision to donate his organs.
"During regular hours we are on site almost immediately, but we try to get there as fast as possible because that window for that option shrinks very quickly," Arnold said.
So far this year the hospital has seen 12 donors-- up about 20 percent from last year. Oftentimes, artificial means are used to keep folks alive while families weigh their options and doctors prepare to remove the organs.
"That option is important because when somebody dies by the traditional cardiopulmonary criteria their organs stop being oxygenated and being perfused with blood and start to deteriorate very, very quickly," Arnold explained.
Right now hundreds of Vermonters are waiting for transplants, but making a match comes with major challenges--chief among them may be how a potential donor dies.
"That person that passes away on the side of the road in a car accident, that's killed at the scene; they are unfortunately not going to be a candidate to be an organ donor," Arnold said. "You have to make it to the hospital, you have to be maintained on a ventilator, you have to have your physiology of your body supported by artificial means in the hospital."
Organs that come from Vermont donors are shared with regional donation centers in New York and Boston that work to pair them up with needy recipients. Efforts are often made to find matches in Vermont first, but it's not a guarantee.
"If somebody is on the fence about this I would encourage you to look into it, it really is life-saving," Arnold said.
Experts say the time to talk about the option is now.
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