National Pediatric Transplant Week aims to educate people on child organ donations & transplants
(WXYZ) — This week is National Pediatric Transplant Week. It focuses on the powerful message of ending the pediatric transplant waiting list.
There are more than 1,900 children under the age of 18 waiting for a variety of organs, and more than 25% of those children are under 5 years old.
There are challenges for everyone waiting for an organ donation, but there are special considerations for children looking for a lifesaving transplant because size matters.
Children like 6-month-old Nyair Stanfield. For the past month, Nyair has been at Children's Hospital of Michigan, being treated for an enlarged heart.
Doctors have done all they can do, and a transplant is the only path forward. It's a challenge for his mother, Nicole, who talked to us from Nyair's bedside at the hospital.
"It hit me very hard at first, but I've come to terms with it, and I just have to be strong for him and his brother and sister," Nicole said.
The waiting and uncertainty may be the hardest of all.
Younger kids like Nair, who is six months old, have to wait a very long time, sometimes even up to six months or longer," Dr. Swati Sehgal, a pediatric transplant cardiologist at Children's Hospital, said.
She says there aren't enough organ and tissue donations to meet the need of any age group. But for children, size adds an additional barrier.
"If it's too big, it would not fit well in the chest. If it's too small, it may not do as good of a job," she said.
So a baby like Nyair will need a tiny heart that can fit into his tiny body. That donor can only weigh between 80% to 250% of Nyair's weight.
Size is also a key factor for children waiting for other organs – including a liver, lung or kidney. Most children under the age of 1 are waiting for a heart or a liver. For kids over one, the most common wait is for a kidney.
"It's hard for him to get a heart. Another person's child has to pass away," Nicole said.
But some healthcare providers are reluctant to talk about organ donation with potential donor families or even allow organizations like Gift of Life Michigan to have those conversations.
"When that happens, we rob the opportunity for another family to show love and compassion to another family," Remonia Chapman from Gift of Life Michigan said.
"I think that's what National Pediatric Transplant Week is all about. It's about educating, it's about raising awareness, about honoring donor families for the incredible gift," Sehgal said.
It's important to note that there are no age limits to registering as an organ donor.
According to the organ donor website, one of the oldest organ donors in the U.S. was 92. His donated liver saved the life of a 69-year-old woman.
People under age 18 can also register, but it's essential for legal minors to discuss that decision with their families to make their wishes known.
It is a conversation worth having. The gift of life will mean so much to the organ recipient and their family.