Focus Placed on Organ Transplant Process

Tuesday, June 23rd 2009, 6:15 pm
By: News 9

By Charles Bassett, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The recent announcement that Apple CEO Steve Jobs got a liver transplant has sparked a bit of a controversy.

Some are questioning whether he was moved to the top of the donor list because of his social status.

Jobs lives in one state but went across country to get a transplant. It's allowed, and in some cases it can improve your chances of getting a transplant.

Vicki Saliba had a pancreas and kidney transplant seven years ago and one year later her new kidney started to fail.

"The medications that they used to save the pancreas damaged the kidney and it started the deterioration of the kidney," Saliba said.

Saliba waited about two years for her first transplant and she's been on the waiting list for the new kidney since 2007.

She could go to another region of the country and get on a waiting list to improve her chances of getting a kidney sooner. But she'll incur travel and medical costs to be evaluated.

"Financially it's not feasible for me to do that, but it would be nice," Saliba said.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, that's what Apple CEO Steve Jobs did. He lives in California but went to Tennessee for a liver transplant.

"Sometimes they will do some research and find out that they wait time for a liver transplant, in this case the speculation is Tennessee, may be a lot less than it is in Los Angeles," Phil Van Stavern with Life Share said.

The country is divided up into 11 transplant regions. Oklahoma shares region four with Texas. But the procurement agency here says the two states work together depending on the need.

"There is a lot of organ sharing that occurs across state lines all over the country," Van Stavern said.

Meanwhile, Saliba is on dialysis waiting for her transplant.

"I hope I can keep it longer than I did the first time," Saliba said. "I would really like to keep this kidney a while."

Baptist Hospital is a transplant listing center for the metro area. According to Baptist Hospital they have people from other states on their waiting list because of the quick turn-around. Getting a kidney takes about 22 months.

About 74 percent of Oklahoman's with driver's licenses or IDs are registered organ donors.

Learn more about becoming an organ donor | Life Share: Transplant Donor Services of Oklahoma