Transplant Program Surpasses 5,000 Life-Saving Organ Transplants, Sees Another Record Year Despite Pandemic

(ABC4 Utah) Intermountain Healthcare achieved its 5,000and adult solid organ transplant in 2021 and had another banner year, thanks to organ donors and their families and a transplant team committed to helping patients access organ transplant opportunities vital despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is the third consecutive record year for the Intermountain Transplant Services team, which performed 289 solid organ transplants, including kidney (170), pancreas (6), liver (94) transplants. and heart (19).

“COVID may have turned the world upside down, but our transplant team got creative and worked hard to change many lives in another unprecedented year,” said Diane Alonso, MD, transplant surgeon. and Medical Director of the Abdominal Transplant Program at Intermountain Healthcare. “We are proud of every caregiver at Intermountain Healthcare and the team who have worked tirelessly to find innovative ways to safely discover other donor opportunities.”

The 5,000and The transplant comes after Intermountain Transplant Services performed Utah’s first solid organ transplant at LDS Hospital when a sister donated one of her kidneys to her brother.

The success of Intermountain’s transplant program, which serves patients nationwide, is the result of the collaboration of many multidisciplinary teams.

Here are some examples :

  • Partnership with the National Kidney Foundation has helped make Intermountain a nationwide premier program in the Kidney for Life program, transplanting exceptionally well-matched living kidney donors from a national pool . Intermountain also continues to be the only transplant program in Utah to participate in the matched kidney exchange program.
  • Intermountain’s transplant program has partnered with DonorConnect, the organ procurement agency of Utah and Intermountain West, identifying often overlooked donors and then successfully utilizing them with exceptional results.
  • Work with community hospitalists, gastroenterologists, nephrologists and intensivists to expand the living organ donor program to be the largest in Utah.

The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) also reported a banner year. On December 17, 2021, the United States officially exceeded 40,000 transplants in one year, a historic first for the country. To date, 106,660 men, women and children are on the waiting list for a transplant, which is the lowest since 2009. In Utah, there are 823 people waiting for an organ, according to the ‘BONE.

Here are some of the lives that have been changed in 2021 through organ donation to Intermountain, which is based at the Intermountain Medical Center.


Jesse Davis, 36, North Ogden, Utah: Jesse is a wife, mother of one daughter, and 6-year-old daughter.and teacher at Midland Elementary School. His students say, “Thank you for saving our teacher!”

Thirteen years ago, Jesse was diagnosed with PSC – Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, a rare liver disease that attacks the bile ducts and was told she would eventually need a liver transplant. She lived in pain until her liver almost gave out and she was placed on the transplant list on August 16, 2020.

The first person to sign up to donate ended up being a match – that vital transplant came from fellow teacher, friend and mentor, Shawna Blamires, who teaches at Orchard Springs Elementary. The two had met 12 years earlier while teaching at a first-grade school in downtown Ogden, Utah.

On January 5, 2021, surgeons at Intermountain Medical Center removed part of Shawna’s liver and transplanted it into Jesse, who says that was the day she regained her life.

Both are now organ transplant advocates, participating in fairs and parades – sharing their life-changing stories.

“Life has been so wonderful and fun, and I owe it to Shawna who didn’t wait for her death, she donated when needed,” Jesse said. “I am a completely different person. I can play with my daughter, ride everywhere, and teach full time again.


Courtney Harkins, 32, Park City, UT: Courtney is a former competitive alpine skier, but when her best friend’s mother, Terry Bargar, suffered kidney failure, she didn’t hesitate to donate. Although Courtney wasn’t compatible, with the help of the NKR Matched Exchange Program, she was able to donate to someone in San Francisco, California, while Terry got his new kidney in Boston, CA. Massachusetts.

Just six weeks after the operation, Courtney was back on the ski slopes and preparing for the Beijing Olympics, working with the US Ski and Snowboard and US Biathlon teams.

“It was so rewarding to not only save someone I love, but to help someone else,” Courtney said.


Living donation often allows for earlier transplants and the results are usually better than from a deceased donor, Dr. Morris said.

Research shows that, on average, a living kidney transplant doubles the life expectancy of the recipient. It also dramatically improves their quality of life while lowering their overall healthcare costs.

“In what has been a difficult year for every family, we so appreciate that the community continues to recognize the value of organ donation in saving a life,” said Richard Gilroy, MD, transplant hepatologist and medical director. Liver Transplant from Intermountain Healthcare. “It is only through these precious donations that we are restoring and saving lives.”

To learn more about organ donation or to register to become an organ donor, visit their website.

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Norma A. Roth