Pandemic creates delays for patients awaiting organ transplants

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DENVER (KDVR) — There’s nothing more important in life than family, and there’s nothing most of us wouldn’t do to try to save the life of a loved one.

David Stout is donating his own kidney to his father, who lives in Salida.

“I want my dad to be around and I want him to be around for my son,” Stout explained.

David’s father is also named David, but he goes by Dave. Dave’s kidneys were damaged years ago when he was given the wrong medicine because of a medical misdiagnosis.

He now needs a transplant.

In January, his son David found out he was a match and the procedure was scheduled for April 30, but then they got the call all transplants were being postponed because of COVID-19.

“It’s certainly disappointing,” said Dave Stout Sr.

Life has now turned into a waiting game.

“That’s the difficult part, just the uncertainty and not knowing when it’s going to happen,” said the younger David.

Living donor transplants are now beginning to be scheduled again, but at most hospitals there’s a long wait. The wait is anywhere from two to three months, at least currently, for transplant patients at Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver.

For many, that feels like an eternity. The Stouts worry what will happen if there’s another surge in COVID-19 cases as people return to work, and David Jr. is terrified of contracting the virus himself.

“I’ve heard things from, ‘You may not be a candidate at all anymore’ to ‘You may have to wait six months if you test positive,'” said Stout.

Vidya Bhandaram is David Stout’s doctor and medical director of the transplant unit at Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center. She is also worried about patients, and says COVID-positive patients likely will not be allowed to donate organs so long as they test positive for the virus.

“That is a concern. Right now there’s no guidance about whether to accept patients with COVID for donations,” Bhandaram said.

Bhandaram is also worried about transplant recipients during the pandemic, because patients must take anti-rejection medication that lowers their immune system, making them more at risk of contracting viruses like COVID-19.

“We really have to balance the risk of getting sick off of transplant versus getting sick after transplant,” said Bhandaram.

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