Organ donations and transplants impacted by COVID-19

Published: Apr. 28, 2020 at 10:24 PM EDT
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We've seen the impacts COVID-19 has had on the economy, and how it has changed the healthcare industry.

The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) said organ donations are down since the pandemic and, in some cases, put on pause.

Moments before yet another doctor's appointment regarding his failing kidneys, George Holbrook shared his story with WSAZ. He was put on the wait list a few weeks ago after almost two years of battling kidney disease.

"I got pneumonia, and it shut me down," Holbrook said. "When I started dialysis, I was at six percent."

Doctors tell Holbrook it could be closer toward the end of the year before he gets a transplant. With more than 112,000 Americans waiting for an organ transplant, there could be a delay because of the virus and procedures being put on hold.

UNOS says data shows there has been a sharp decline in donors since mid-March.

"It's not a good thing," Holbrook said. "The donations need to come back up. Because there are plenty of people waiting on a kidney."

The pandemic has also caused a dramatic rise in patients who are "inactivated" from the wait list.

"A temporary inactivation means that the transplant program has determined that a candidate is temporarily unavailable or unsuitable for transplantation and should not receive organ offers," UNOS said. "The transplant program may reactivate the candidate at any time."

More than 8,300 patients have been listed "inactive" due to COVID-19 precautions.

UNOS says transplants have not been completely stopped during the pandemic, explaining that each state and even each doctor has been different with protocol or decisions.