MURRAY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – April is National Donate Life Month, which brings attention to the importance of organ, eye, bone marrow, and tissue donation and transplantation.

Donate Life Month in April honors and recognizes those who have saved lives through the gift of organ donation. It is only through the generosity of donor families and donors that makes saving lives through organ transplantation possible.

Transplant experts at Intermountain Health say Donate Life Month is a good time to

Across the country, 104,000 people are currently on the transplant list, waiting for a kidney, liver, pancreas, heart, or lungs. Every nine minutes another person is added to the wait list.

In Utah, 900 people are on that waiting list.

Intermountain Health is a premier organ transplant provider in the Intermountain West, providing heart, kidney, liver, pancreas, and bone marrow transplants to people in need across the region.

The Intermountain Health Transplant program, based at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, transplanted 414 organs in 2023 – 182 liver, 198 kidney, 30 heart, and 4 kidney/pancreas.

This is the fifth consecutive year that the Intermountain Health Transplant Program has performed a record-breaking number of adult transplants and 2024 is appearing to head for a sixth record breaking year.

The largest increase in 2023 was in the liver transplant program, which grew from 104 transplants in 2022 to 182 in 2023 – and is now ranked ninth in the United States among 142 other transplant programs and does this by having the shortest wait times for organs in the nation.

Intermountain Health’s liver transplant program has also consistently had better than expected post-transplant survival for over 10 years and proven itself to be an innovator in liver transplantation.

Intermountain has performed liver transplants in situations where other programs might not, for instance transplantation for cholangiocarcinoma, neuroendocrine tumors and more recently select cases of colorectal cancer.

About 8,000 liver transplants are done annually in the U. S. Since 1986, Intermountain averages nearly 200 liver transplants per year with a 93% survival rate for the first year.

“We are partners in health, collaborating to keep people well,” said Jean Botha, MD, transplant surgeon and medical director of Intermountain Health’s abdominal transplant program. “We say, ‘Yes’ more often where other programs have said, ‘No,” this allows us to get our patients back to their families living their best possible lives.”

Intermountain performs living kidney and liver donor transplants to patients, helping reduce the amount of time they spend waiting for an organ.

Living Donation

Living donations saves thousands of lives each year. Living donors will donate a portion of their liver, which will then grow back or one of their kidneys.

Since the body can perform with just one kidney, it is the most transplanted organ from a living donor. It’s also the best option for people who need a new kidney, it’s safe, and donors don’t have to be related to the recipient.

Five key benefits for participating in a living donor transplant include:

1. Every living donor transplant that occurs removes one person from the transplant waiting list and ensures that the next person on the list won’t have to wait as long for a deceased donor transplant.

2. Living donor kidneys tend to have greater longevity than those transplanted from a deceased donor

3. Surgery can be scheduled in advanced

4. Patients can get a living donor kidney transplant before starting dialysis

5. Patients spending less time on dialysis means better health

“On average, a living kidney transplant doubles the life expectancy of the recipient,” said Donald Morris, MD, nephrologist, and Intermountain Health’s kidney transplant medical director. “It also greatly improves the quality of life while decreasing their overall health costs.”

National Kidney Registry

Intermountain’s Transplant Services at Intermountain Medical Center participates in a national registry that helps get the best optimally matched organ donors and recipients across the nation.

The National Kidney Registry (NKR) is a unique nationwide organ donor exchange program that facilitates paired exchanges, a process in which an organ donor donates their kidney to a recipient other than their loved one in exchange for a compatible kidney for their friend or loved one.