Healthy Kids Summer 2022

Philanthropy Matters To be successful, the transplant program requires both the donation of organs as well as the generosity of philanthropic donors who earmark funds for it. Monetary donations support critical research that allows Rady Children’s to stay on the forefront of advancements in transplant medicine. Contact Rady Children’s Hospital Foundation at for more information.

The Ultimate Gift

There is no greater gift than the gift of life—and it can be given through organ donation. The process differs for different organs, and the need is great for people to become donors, either while living (for kidneys) or upon death. Dr. Ingulli explains that living donors, either relatives or altruistic strangers, are preferable for kidney transplants, as they often result in a better outcome. “With a living donor, the organ survives a little longer,” she says. “You have to be a very healthy person to be able to donate a kidney. Those super-healthy kidneys are going to last longer than the ones that have been through trauma. We would always opt for that for kids, because we’re looking for them to last for decades and decades. I’m always looking for the best donor option for these kids’ organs to be healthy for a long, long time.” Known donors can be relatives—a sibling, parent or other living family—or non-relatives, such as a spouse, in-law or friend. Altruistic donors are strangers who simply want to give of themselves to save someone’s life. The main requirement to begin the process is blood compatibility. Once the donor goes through tests to ensure they’re in optimal health, the transplant can take place. The average kidney transplant takes three hours and is most often done laparoscopically to minimize pain and recovery time. In most cases, the donor spends between two and five days in the hospital and is then on limited activity for approximately six weeks. For hearts, the process is quite different, since the organ must

come from a deceased donor of relatively the same age and size as the recipient. A child in need of a new heart is placed on a national transplant list through the United Network for Organ Sharing, which matches donor organs to adults and children awaiting transplantation in the United States. How soon the child receives a donor heart is based on a number of factors, including medical urgency, blood type, the size of their own heart and their time on the wait list. Once a suitable donor heart can be provided, a team that includes a pediatric heart surgeon from Rady Children’s travels to the donor hospital to retrieve it. The heart is carefully transported back to Rady Children’s for the transplant surgery and the surgeon places the child on a heart-lung machine that pumps and oxygenates their blood for the duration of the procedure. The child’s heart is removed, and the new donor heart is sutured into place. For children who haven’t previously had open-heart surgery, the operation typically takes six to eight hours. Either living or deceased, donors and their families truly save lives and ensure their organs live on in a child in need, which is why Dr. Nigro and the transplant team are constant advocates for organ donation. Dr. Nigro says: “We encourage people to consider donation. While it’s a time of great sorrow and grief, it can also result in an amazing impact on the patient as well as the entire community. When you look at it, there’s a whole community affected by a child. This is what we hope people will keep in mind when considering organ donation.”


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