The Pandemic’s Impact on Organ Donations and Transplants

July 22, 2021

While the pandemic has certainly caused large waves of change across our news media, most of the talk has revolves around the catching of COVID-19, being placed in a hospital bed, and being put on a breathing apparatus, or people dying from COVID-19. But behind all of that, there is also another struggle going on—keeping up with organ donations.

Organ Donations and Transplants Took a Hit on Multiple Fronts

Several factors were at work the moment COVID-19 rocked the world that quickly hurt the world of organ donations and transplants. When the pandemic struck, PPE swiftly became short in supply. This in turn impacted the number of patients that could be tended to, and the staff that could work with those patients, and with COVID-19 being the absolute top worry, the whole process of organ transplants had to be paused because of how many people were dying and the unknowns of the danger that was causing these deaths.

This chaos also led to a reduction of available organ donors. Fear of catching and dying from COVID-19 led many who died of other causes to die at home—there is a specific window of time for when organs must be harvested for transplant. This impacted the number of organs readily available for transplant. However, enough people were still dying in hospitals to cushion the impact. What would eventually tip the number of organ transplants into the negative was donations from living donors. Fears from COVID-19 and the stresses of dying relatives from COVID-19 all contributed to a reduction of living donors, which resulted in almost 2000 less living donors from 2019 to 2020. This translated into over 700 more deaths during that time span as people waited for an organ transplant but never received it in time.

Solutions to the Organ Transplant Troubles

This situation could’ve been a lot worse, if not for the efforts of many medical professionals across the nation and the sheer logistics they had to go through to ensure that most patients were still getting their much-needed transplants. For areas where certain organs may have been short, hospitals were communicating with neighboring areas to have the needed organs transplanted as fast as possible. This helped mitigate the potential loss of life that we could’ve suffered versus the losses that we did experience. However, the fact remains that we need more donors, and COVID-19 has certainly left its mark on the world of organ transplants.

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