Need for lung transplants spikes in Nebraska because of COVID

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Dr. Lee Morrow, the chief medical officer at Live On Nebraska, says receiving new lungs has never been easy.

“The deck has always kind of been stacked against people who need lung transplants,” he said. “The supply simply doesn’t keep up with the demand.”

Now COVID-19 has caused the demand to grow even more.

“We have our old demand, and now we have 10% more on top of it, yet the number of people donating their organs fell substantially,” he said.

The reason organ donations fell so drastically in 2020 was because doctors worried about giving someone the coronavirus through an infected organ.  Now organs are tested extensively, and donations are going back up.

“2021 was the best year for organ donation that Live on Nebraska’s ever had,” Morrow said.

Even though donations are going up, so is the need for organ transplants.

“We have so many more people who need organs than we have the capacity to recover organs,” Morrow said.

There are two categories of people needing new lungs because of COVID-19.

“One is the people who have had COVID for a few weeks, they can’t get off of life support so they are getting it for acute respiratory distress syndrome. The second group of people who require lung transplants from COVID are the ones who have recovered from COVID but it caused such catastrophic damage to their lungs that they have pulmonary fibrosis.”

The average age of someone needing a lung transplant is much lower than before the coronavirus.  The silver lining to that is that they are typically otherwise healthy.

“Even though they are so severely ill when they get the transplant, they do well post-transplant because they don’t have those co-morbidity that can impair healing and recovery from such a major operation.”

You can always sign up to be an organ donor when renewing your driver’s license or by reaching out to Live On Nebraska, but state senators added a new way for more Nebraskans to be able to register.

“The State Legislature just this past year passed a bill that will now let people register to be an organ donor whenever they get a hunting or fishing license,” Morrow said.

Categories: Coronavirus, Health, Nebraska News, News, Top Stories