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Coronavirus causing problems for organ donations

Posted at 4:07 PM, Apr 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-22 20:18:53-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — People who sign up to be organ donors can take a potential tragic death and save someone else’s life. But today, COVID-19 is threatening the process. The Donor Network of Arizona says donations are still on pace with the same time last year, but several factors are creating challenges.

“He’s my hero, he’s the person i would most like to meet. Who is always with me, but I can’t meet him and say thank you enough,” said Heart Recipient Steve Ralsten.

Steve Ralsten needed a heart after the medication he took for 30 years wore off. Jennifer Caywood is alive today after chemotherapy and a heart and kidney transplant.

“Allowing someone else to live, its overwhelming, there are no words for the sense of gratitude,” said Caywood.

Now COVID-19 is putting the organ donation process in jeopardy.

“Going through it without a pandemic is hard, going through it in this situation is almost unthinkable for me,” said Ralsten.

The Donor Network of Arizona says they are testing potential donors for the virus and having to reject those with positive results. Changes at the MVD means fewer people are signing up to be organ donors when they get a license. And visitation restrictions means talking to family after a tragic loss is more difficult.

“Sometimes these days it’s doing it through phone calls, rarely but as a last case we reach out through text message,” said Donor Network of Arizona Spokesperson Nico Santos.

Still even during a pandemic people and families are making the choice that can mean so much to someone else.

"I know there are people with good hearts taking the right actions and I know this won’t last forever,” said Ralsten.

You can register to be an organ donor here.