April declared “Organ Donation Month” in Orlando as transplant donors, recipients, caregivers unite

A large group of people gathered for a picnic photo

ORLANDO, Fla., April 7, 2019 April was declared “Organ Donation Month” in Orlando in front of more than 400 transplant patients and their families at AdventHealth’s annual Transplant Reunion.

The annual picnic — which helps brings awareness to the importance of organ donation — unites organ donors and recipients, and the doctors, nurses and other caregivers who helped them through their transplant journey.

More than 113,000 people are waiting for a lifesaving transplant in the U.S., according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Of those, about 450 are being cared for by teams at the AdventHealth Transplant Institute, home to Orlando’s only solid-organ transplant program.

“For many of our patients, a transplant is the only option and we would not be able to help them if it wasn’t for the thoughtfulness and generosity of people in the community who become donors and give someone the gift of life,” said Dr. Bobby Nibhanupudy, medical director of abdominal transplant at AdventHealth. “We are privileged to be able to bring world-class programs that make life-saving transplantation a more viable option for families in Florida and the Southeast.”

Among those in attendance at the reunion was Ezequiel Lopez, who was just 3 years old when he was diagnosed in August with acute liver failure. After being added to the transplant waiting list, he received a new liver within days. Ezequiel, now 4, accepted the proclamation from Orlando city officials on behalf of the organ recipients in attendance.

“Ezekiel was a healthy boy and all of the sudden his liver started failing,” said Anyelena Lopez, Ezequiel´s mom. “We live in Orlando, so we were very lucky that AdventHealth had this pediatric transplant program because otherwise we would have had to go to Miami. Ezekiel is doing well, and his liver numbers are perfect now.”

The AdventHealth Transplant Institute is one of the nation’s oldest and largest transplant programs. Beginning with its first kidney transplant in 1973, the program has expanded to also include kidney/pancreas, lung and heart transplants and VAD’s. According to the most recent national data, the Transplant Institute:

  • has the best patient outcomes in the U.S. for liver transplants.
  • performed more heart transplants in 2018 than any other program in the Southeast.
  • has the shortest median wait time for lung transplant in the country.

The Transplant Institute team works closely with TransLife, the federally-designated organ procurement organization for 10 counties in east Central Florida. TransLife works closely with hospitals and donor families to coordinate the organ donation process. Florida residents can sign up to be an organ donor at www.donatelifeflorida.org.

Many of the innovations and programs at the AdventHealth Transplant Institute are funded though philanthropy. Among them is the Bartch Transplant House ­— a home-away-from-home that provides housing, support and amenities at an affordable cost for patients and families. Those amenities are funded through donations to the Patient Assistance Fund.