Twenty-one-year-old Daniel Billado's fight for life was featured in an online film produced by the Heritage auto dealerships.
For more than nine months, Billado sat at Tufts Medical Center in Boston waiting for a call. Without a heart transplant, Billado could die from his rare heart condition. He got that life-saving call Monday afternoon and went into surgery that night.
"The availability for hearts for transplant is not much," said Dr. Antonio DiCarlo, a transplant surgeon at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington.
DiCarlo says unlike kidney donations, hearts can only come from deceased donors. And when it comes to organs, hearts are in the lowest supply because many are unusable. Donors can't have heart disease or any trauma from an accident, also hearts don't age well.
"It's trickier: smaller supply, lesser availability and trickier to match," DiCarlo said. "It's a tough life physiologically, physically and emotionally waiting-- anything that goes wrong... is this it?!"
In Vermont there are currently up to 200 people waiting for an organ transplant. Fletcher Allen does not perform heart transplants, but does perform 40 kidney and pancreas transplants a year.
"Fortunately, we are one of the shortest waits in the country. Our wait time is anywhere from two to three years," DiCarlo said.
Nationally, the wait is five to nine years. DiCarlo says the shorter wait here is because Fletcher Allen is more aggressive and uses organs other centers are not capable of using.
"There's a lot more life in organs than we get out of it," DiCarlo said.
Vermont was the last state to create an online donor registry two years ago. Before the registry, the only way to donate organs was to sign the back of your driver's license. But that often wasn't enough-- the information was not on the registry and often not checked because it didn't end up at the hospital. In January of this year, the Vt. Department of Motor Vehicles started updating records and now officials ask directly if you want to be a donor, putting you right into the database. In the past two months, over 13,000 people have joined the registry through the DMV.
"It's really important to get people in the database so individuals waiting have more opportunities available to them," said Mike Smith, director of operations at the Vt. DMV.
Daniel Billado's mother says he's doing well after his transplant surgery and he's alert and happy.
Gina Bullard will go to Tufts Medical Center in Boston later this week to check in with the entire family.
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