Keeping the doors open for organ transplant patients

Rebecca Franklin, nurse clinician and pre-liver transplant and hepatobiliary coordinator

Throughout this COVID-19 environment, the Organ Transplant Center (OTC) has kept its doors open. Why? Because any delay in their patients’ care would have directly impacted their well-being.

“For the liver transplant and hepatobiliary patient populations, these are surgeries that are largely non-elective,” says Rebecca Franklin, nurse clinician and pre-liver transplant and hepatobiliary coordinator. “They are considered life-saving surgeries for those patients. Any delays in their care could potentially lead to adverse outcomes or in many cases, even death.”

Improving the numbers

According to Franklin, the first step in continuing their patients’ care during COVID-19 was to ensure the OTC had the necessary resources on hand.

At the onset, we didn’t really know what impact COVID-19 would have on our program. It was necessary to work in concert with hospital administration, the OR, the ICU, the blood bank, etc., to ensure that, with every case and every potential case that came in, those resources would be available.

— Rebecca Franklin

Not only has the OTC been able to continue its normal operations, it’s actually seen its patient volumes increase over the last several months.

“The growth of our patient population was really a planned effort by the OTC leadership and Alan Reed, MD, MBA, director of the OTC, in order to better serve the residents of Iowa, especially residents with end-stage liver disease and complex liver lesions,” says Franklin. “We’re performing increasingly complex surgeries and seeing more referrals as a consequence of that. We’re also offering a living donor liver transplant program in response to the increasing need for suitable livers.”

Making a difference

Franklin finds motivation in knowing she makes a difference, something she realized after a phone conversation with a patient. After speaking with the patient multiple times, answering questions, triaging concerns, and helping to schedule a visit, she finally met the patient face to face.

“I remember walking into the clinic room and she and her caregiver both threw their hands up in the air and said, ‘Oh. It’s Rebecca!’ like I was famous,” says Franklin. “All I did was talk to her on the phone, but to her that was such a comfort to have that point of contact. It just reinforced that it doesn’t really matter what role you play or what your credentials are, everybody can bring something of value.”