When I was in high school, I watched a young freshman track teammate die from a congenital heart defect. He was a great boy, and unfortunately, his family and our tightknit community never knew about his condition. Today though, these defects are much more commonly discovered, and luckily, pediatric organ repair and even transplants are more efficient and more effective than ever. This is primarily because of improvements made in organ donation practices and other medical advances.
In 2011, over 28,000 organ transplants were conducted, but over 7,000 people still died waiting for an organ. This number includes children as well. Finding organs for children is often more difficult than finding organs for adults. It’s just a fact that children receive transplants much better when they have a pediatric donor, which is a donor that is seventeen years old or younger. Though it’s possible for pediatric patients to receive adult grafts, most doctors try to get a pediatric donor instead. Because of the new organ transplant practices, pediatric donors have become more available. Along with this, children who receive organ transplants early in life are more likely than ever to survive because of new improvements in modern medicine. The most noticeable upgrades have been in organ preservation, surgical techniques, immunosuppression, and post-operative care.
I can’t imagine how terrifying it must be to have your child become ill at such a young age, and though it’s tragic that so many children have died waiting for a transplant, more and more pediatric patients are receiving the care they need and the organs they need to survive. Rejection of an organ and failure to receive an organ are among the leading causes of death among pediatric patients in need of transplants, but the numbers of deaths are beginning to decrease.
Since 2001, the number of pediatric patients in need of a transplant has risen each year by a few hundred or less. It used to be that every year a larger number of children would die waiting, but as recently as the past few years the number of patients who failed to receive an organ has started to decrease. In fact, since 2001, the number of pediatric patients that have died waiting for an organ transplant has decreased from 262 to 110. Though this number is still much higher than parents of sick children would like, it’s still a victory for the medical community. There will always be people that die before receiving a transplant, but with new medical practices and transplant improvements, there is hope that even fewer children will reject their organs or be denied and organ transplant in the future.
- Workman, J. K., Myrick, C. W., Meyer, R. L., Bratton, S. L., & Nakagawa, T. A. (2013). Pediatric organ donation and transplantation. Pediatrics, 131(6), 1723-1730.
- Quality of life improves for organ transplant recipients. (n.d.). Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.