A National Donate Life Month Story Series
“You’ve Said ‘Yes’ to Donation. Now What?” is a National Donate Life Month story series that chronicles the ins and outs of the complex donation process. Journey with us during NDLM 2017 as we showcase the behind-the-scenes people who help turn tragedy into triumph by making donation happen.
The Referral Call: Donor Resource Coordinators
We are privileged to be there for people who are helping and for people who are hurting. It’s a wonderful thing to be part of those two worlds.” — Kelsey Bacha, Donor Resource Coordinator at Gift of Hope
As the first cousin of a liver transplant recipient, Kelsey Bacha never imagined her personal and professional lives would one day intersect.
“My cousin received a transplant when she was only 18 months old,” said Kelsey. “She is going to turn 18 this October, and it’s been really cool to see her grow up healthy and strong after seeing her struggle so early in her life. I never expected that experience would one day help me understand the bittersweet donation process and how vital gathering the correct initial medical and social information is to determining if a person can actually donate.”
Kelsey Bacha is one of 23 Donor Resource Coordinators who each works three, 12-hour shifts each week on a three- or four-day rotating schedule. Her job is to receive the numerous donor referrals made by our partners. From these critical phone calls, Kelsey and her colleagues collect the necessary medical and social information to determine whether the individual referred is eligible to donate.
Essential to the Process
Kelsey has worked in the Donor Resource Center for a little over a year and acknowledges that, although her job is unconventional in many ways, it provides a deep sense of purpose and fulfillment. She is an integral part of a process, both clinical and emotional, that helps save and enhance thousands of lives each year.
“The processes and procedures put in place by our Donation Coordinators help streamline the donation referral,” said Kelsey. “Our partners know to call us within an hour of a person’s passing or when death is unavoidable, and they know exactly what information is needed. We obtain basic demographic data, as much past medical history as possible and the circumstances under which the person was admitted to the hospital.”
During the referral call, Kelsey and her colleagues in Gift of Hope’s Donor Resource Center are also apprised of the potential donor’s current situation. If the person is deceased at the time of referral, organ donation is not possible, and the potential donor’s next-of-kin will be contacted and approached by a Donor Resource Coordinator for tissue donation only. If the patient is on a ventilator and, despite all efforts to save his or her life it still appears that death is imminent, then he or she becomes a candidate for organ and tissue donation. The case is then passed into the well-trained hands of Donation Specialists and Organ Recovery Coordinators, whose role in the process will be covered in upcoming features.
Quick and Compassionate, Efficient and Caring
Kelsey and her peers answer more than 6,300 calls each month. Although many of them are donor referrals, calls from donor family members and from colleagues working in the field also come in. Kelsey and her peers must be clinically and emotionally flexible for whatever those calls may bring.
“There’s a ton of organization, quick reflexes and shifting gears involved in the Donor Resource Coordinator role,” said Kelsey (right). “As soon as we’re done taking a new referral we must immediately enter all the data and notes into our computer program, and then it’s quickly time to follow up on a previous case or answer a call from a donor family member.”
Donor Resource Coordinators like Kelsey understand that our clinical partners are busy, so they are as direct and efficient as possible in receiving, transferring and following up on referral calls. With donor families, however, Kelsey and her colleagues take the time necessary to offer emotional support, kindness and compassion.
“Sometimes it can be overwhelming, but we know we need to be nimble to navigate between speaking in very clinical terms with a partner or colleague to holding space for and caring for our donor family members,” said Kelsey. “We are privileged to be there for people who are helping and for people who are hurting. It’s a wonderful thing to be part of those two worlds. We collaborate with our partners clinically but also get to help people cope with their losses and help make something positive come from their sorrow. That’s an amazing thing.”