By Rick Morwick
Once upon a not-too-distant time, the process of organ and tissue donations was the sole province of hospitals.
But thanks to a partnership between the Indiana Donor Network and Carmel Fire Dept., that is no longer the case in Hamilton County, where the process of tissue donation can be activated outside a hospital setting. Firefighter/EMTs who arrive on the scene of fatal emergency runs can now refer potential tissue donors directly to the Indiana Donor Network.
Previously, referrals only came from hospitals following a patient’s death – a practice that excluded potential donors who died outside of hospitals.
Although still in its infancy, the pilot program – the first of its kind in Indiana – is expected to eventually benefit countless patients in need of skin, bone, vein, heart valve, tendon or cornea donations.
“The key thing for us is, Carmel fire is notifying us and activating the process for donation to happen,” said Sue Finkam, who served as director of external engagement for Indiana Donor Network until mid-February. “Donation is a rare gift, so the fact that Carmel Fire is able to help out and try to identify more tissue donors is incredibly helpful. Not only to us, but to help others heal.”
Skin, for example, can help burn patients and provide tissue for reconstruction for breast cancer patients. Bone can help bone cancer patients and help repair bone fractures, and tendons can help rebuild damaged joints.
Launched in June 2019, the program is only applicable for tissue referrals. Organ donation referrals must still come from hospitals.
To date, CFD has made about a half-dozen tissue referrals. Finkam, who also is a Carmel City Council member, expects the number to increase with time. She said other communities, including Franklin, Anderson and Evansville, have reached out to the Indiana Donor Network about establishing similar programs.
For more or to register as a donor, visit indianadonornetwork.org.