Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 4:00 AM
Perhaps no other part of medicine is more dependent on teamwork than organ transplantation. The multiplicity of highly coordinated players includes lab technicians, pharmacists, teams of surgeons, networks of hospitals and specially trained nurses. Nurses like the Cleveland Clinic's Keith Stevens, a Lung Transplant Coordinator for patients in the recovery phase of transplantation. As part of our series "LifeGiving: Transplant Stories" Katie Baker produced this audio postcard.
Keith Stevens: I primary on about 140 patients right now meaning when the physicians say "what's going on with this patient?" they come to me and I have the answers for them .
My job is basically to keep them healthy. Address issues that they have coming up, everything from insurance companies that are making it difficult for them to get specific medications, making sure they have the prescriptions they need, blood work that needs to be drawn so we can evaluate their immune system to determine whether we have to adjust their immunosuppressant's.
I see everything from young patients, the youngest patient I've recently taken care of died back in June got two transplants. She got her initial one when she was seven years old and got a second one when she was 12, and succumbed a week before her 15th birthday… and that was a stressful one. And there are days like that when you sit back and say…was it worth it all? From the mother's standpoint definitely- she got another seven years with one of her daughters. I try and make as many of the local funerals. That little girl was down in Cincinnati and I needed that, the family needed that, and it was some closure so yes they become very very close to us.
We tell people we can improve the quality of life. We may not actually extend the overall length of their life but they won't be sitting doing nothing on oxygen. And we are very successful at that.
I learn a lot about death and dying and how short a time we have here on earth and how you know we can walk out or get in our car tonight and hit the highway and have somebody careen into us so for me personally it's made a big difference in how I embrace everything I do on my personal level.