Ask the Expert: Organ and Tissue Donation

Clint Burns, a program coordinator for organ and tissue donation at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland, has over 14 years of experience as a critical care nurse specializing in trauma and transplant. He received a liver transplant 20 years ago at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and has mentored transplant recipients at Johns Hopkins for the past 15 years. He is currently pursuing his master’s degree in nursing.

 

How old were you when you had your transplant?

I was born with a rare liver condition called benign recurrent cholestasis. I was a Johns Hopkins patient for 25 years, and I had plasmapheresis once a week for four years from ages 19 to 25. At age 25, I received a liver transplant. The transplant was done on June 15, 1994. Dr. Burdick, Dr. Klein and Dr. Maley were my surgeons. In my current role, I work with some of the nurses who took care of me during that time.

 

How long were you on the waitlist after you were told you needed a transplant?

I knew I needed a transplant at age 17, but I was not put on the actual transplant list until I was 24. I was on the list for one year. I received a liver from a deceased donor. I had the pleasure of meeting my donor family 18 years after my transplant, and we keep in touch on a regular basis.

 

Was your transplant one of the reasons you went into nursing and work at Johns Hopkins?

I went to college four months after my transplant. My first job in nursing was in a medical surgical transplant unit at Johns Hopkins. It was the same unit in which I was a patient. It was a natural career progression and was where life seemed to take me. Receiving such an incredible gift was what motivated to me to become a nurse.

 

What does your role as the in-house coordinator for organ and tissue donation at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland entail?

As the in-house coordinator, I facilitate the organ and tissue donation processes. My primary responsibilities include education of staff, policy implementation and review, and support during active cases and after action reviews for donor cases. I manage donors and provide support to potential donor families, and I also develop the organ and tissue donor memorial wall and annual ceremony. I am also a member of the Johns Hopkins Hospital Organ Donor Council, support the pastoral care chaplain residents and help with community outreach by speaking at churches, schools and hospitals.

 

How does your transplant affect your daily life?

I’m married and have four children, all boys, including 15-month-old twins. I named my oldest son Jared Maley Burns after Dr. Maley, who was one of the surgeons who performed my transplant.

 

What is one thing you wish that everyone knew about organ donation?

My job is educating Johns Hopkins staff and the public on organ and tissue donation, and there are so many things I wish people know about donation. I don’t think people know that you are 100 times more likely to be in need of an organ than to ever be in the position of donating organs. We need to be there for each other as a community. Over 6,000 people a year die waiting on a lifesaving organ. Please take the time to educate yourself and your family on organ and tissue donation and designate yourself at www.donatelifemaryland.org or at the MVA. One person can save eight lives and help over 50 people with tissue donation.

 

To hear more about organ and tissue donation, please join Clint Burns, RN and Amy Morris, MHA, on Thursday, April 24 from 1-2 p.m. for a Facebook Chat: Understanding Transplantation and Organ and Tissue Donation. Submit your questions now, or join tomorrow at: https://www.facebook.com/Johns.Hopkins.Medicine/photos/a.136449859193.107051.35281659193/10152287167654194/?type=1&stream_ref=10

 

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4 Comments

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Comments

Michael April 23, 2014 at 9:00 am

Clint, thank you for sharing such an inspiring article!

I'm a registered organ donor and have always wondered why organ donation isn't the norm. I understand that some countries operate under a "presumed consent" system in which citizens are considered organ donors upon their death unless they have explicitly stated otherwise (as opposed to an “opt-in” system, where people are organ donors only if they explicitly sign up to do so, as is the case in the United States).

Is there any talk of changing to a presumed consent system in the U.S.?

Thanks,
Michael

Reply

Clint Burns RN April 23, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Michael thank you for your question. The “opt-in”, “opt-out” system has been debated for years and different states have considered moving to an opt-out system. As a transplant community in the United States we have made great strides in gaining the trust of the public with the Organ and Tissue donation process. How society views end of life and palliative care in Spain as compared to the United States is very different. Our concern is that if we go to an opt-out system it would threaten the gains we have made over the last 30 years. That being said, if we are able to educate the public on the myths and misconceptions about organ donation an opt-out system is something that we may see in the future. Our hope is that donation does become an accepted part of the death and dying process.

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Wanda Maxwell April 23, 2014 at 7:57 am

Hi my name is Wanda M Maxwell I am 53 years old , and on 02/13/2014 I donated my left kidney to my son, William A. Maxwell , 34 years old . It is one of the highlights of my life, so if there is anything I can do or say to help with this cause please feel free to contact me, at the above email address.

Surgery was preformed at University of Maryland.

Reply

Clint Burns RN April 23, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Wanda what an amazing gift. Living donation is truly inspiring. There are so many great events that are done to support organ and tissue donation. Without our volunteers none of this would be possible. Please visit the website http://www.thellf.org. This is Living Legacy's website. They have a list of events and contacts should you want to volunteer. Our next big event is on September 27th which is the Donate Life Fun Run. It is an event that raises money to help support donor families. Last year we had over 2000 participants including donor families, recipients and people on the waitlist. I did not see your email address. Please conact me with any questions. cburns3@jhmi.edu.

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