Layton woman a beneficiary of increased organ transplants with Intermountain
When Layton resident Carrie Riggs found out she needed a liver transplant, her co-worker didn’t hesitate to give her a second chance at life.
Kristine Fogarty of Taylorsville said, “If I match, it is the right thing to do.”
After going through the screening process, Fogarty was told she was approved to donate a portion of her liver to Riggs.
“I was terrified,” Riggs said. “I thought I had to wait for someone to die and that scared me. Kristine was my lifeline. She saved my life. We are now closer than ever.”
Last year, Intermountain Health performed a record 300 adult organ transplants. They included 104 liver, 159 kidney, 29 heart and eight kidney/pancreas transplants, making it the fourth consecutive record-breaking year for the Intermountain Transplant Program.
“Intermountain has created the environment and provided us the necessary tools and medical team to be successful,” said Dr. Jean Botha, transplant surgeon and medical director of Intermountain Health’s abdominal transplant program. “I couldn’t be prouder and more honored to be working side-by-side with these caregivers who are changing lives in our communities.”
Botha said the increase in transplants is due to generous donors, but also an uptick in donor organ availability. Improvement in technologies and ever-changing medical advances also play a role.
“We are able to match a wider range of donor organs to recipients,” Botha said. “Our liver transplant rates here at Intermountain actually exceed the national average because we say yes more often to liver transplants.” The largest increase was in live transplantation, with 32 living kidney transplants and 13 living liver transplants.
“Living donors are incredible people,” said Dr. Diane Alonso, transplant surgeon and former medical director of Intermountain Health’s abdominal transplant program. “They are often undergoing major surgery to give new life to their aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, neighbors and sometimes to someone they don’t even know. They truly are giving the gift of life and we do our best to be great stewards of that gift.”
Intermountain’s transplant program serves patients throughout the country. The transplant team includes a new specialized Intermountain Life Flight long-range medical jet used to enhance transplantation by retrieving donor organs from across the nation.
“The increased reach of this jet has been dramatic and has truly helped us be a leader in the transplant community,” Botha said.
The health system also launched a new platform called iReferral with InVita Healthcare Technologies and DonorConnect, the organ procurement agency for Utah and the Intermountain West. iReferral streamlines the organ donor referral process and automates the identification of potential donors.
Intermountain is also the only transplant program in the state to participate in the paired kidney exchange program with the National Kidney Foundation.
To learn more about organ donation or register to become an organ donor, go to intermountainhealthcare.org/donatelife.