Dozens of life-saving miracles in a year of record number organ transplants

Jan 11, 2022, 6:25 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 6:45 pm

MURRAY, Utah — In spite of the coronavirus pandemic, Intermountain Healthcare performed its 5,000th adult solid organ transplant in 2021 and had another record year.

They saved 300 lives, which impacted the friends and families of the recipients, too.

The transplant team saved a record number of lives because of the generosity of donors and the dedication of the caregivers.

This is the third straight year the Intermountain Transplant Services team set a record for solid organ transplants. COVID created unprecedented challenges. But, the transplant team adapted to come up with processes to assure quality of care.

“It’s amazing how resourceful people can be when you want to achieve a goal,” Dr. Diane Alonso, a transplant surgeon and medical director of Intermountain Healthcare’s abdominal transplant program, said.

That’s what it took last year for the Intermountain Transplant team to perform a record-breaking 289 solid organ transplants, including 170 kidney transplants, 94 liver transplants, and 19 heart transplants.

“We are truly proud and grateful to every caregiver at Intermountain Healthcare on our team that has continued to work tirelessly in the face of the pandemic,” Alonso sad.

A transplant is a life-saving procedure, which is prioritized. So, the transplant team established procedures to enable them to continue to do their work safely.

“We shuffled cases. We moved patients,” Alonso said. “We did whatever it took to make that happen.”

Which is what Jesse Davis needed after living and suffering with liver disease for more than a decade. She’s a wife, a mother, and a sixth grade teacher.

When she went on the transplant list in August 2020, the first person to sign up to donate was a match. Her fellow teacher, friend and mentor of a dozen years, Shawna Blamires, donated part of her liver so her friend could live.

“There were no nerves because I was so tired and in so much pain,” Davis said, recalling the night before her transplant. “I just remember the night before being like this is life, this is hope I get to be a person again.”

Jesse Davis (left) received part of a liver from her friend Shawna Blamires (right) in 2021.

Blamires has no regrets, despite tough days in her recovery.

“A lot of pain, a lot of emotions, a lot of tears,” Blamires said. “But, even in those worst moments, just knowing that she was going to be healthy and happy, to be able to raise her daughter and live her life, it was totally worth it, totally worth it.”

“It was a miracle,” Davis said. “It really was.”

That’s just one of nearly 300 life-saving stories from 2021.

“It’s truly a big lift by a lot of people. Like I said, it takes a village, and if the village agrees, this is what we’re going to do we can make that happen,” Alonso sad.

Davis and Blamires call themselves the liver sisters. They advocate for organ transplant, participating in fairs and parades, sharing their life changing stories.

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Dozens of life-saving miracles in a year of record number organ transplants