In Time for National Donate Life Month: Inspirational Journeys
By April 13, 2022 0 266•
Flying home from an L.A. business trip, Georgetowner Lynly Boor, a strategic planning consultant in her mid-50s, suddenly felt listless in her seat, patting her forehead to check for a fever.
“Usually, I’m busy, reading or doing my work,” she recalled. But now, she “just sat there.” After touching down at Reagan National, she began thinking “that was the weirdest flight I’ve ever been on.” For a few odd weeks, she returned to her work schedule, but something just felt off. “I figured maybe it was allergies or I was coming down with the flu or something, but then my stomach got weirdly bloated and it just wasn’t going down.”
Boor had no idea how much danger she was in and how her life was about to change. “The next thing I knew,” she said, “it was like ‘whoosh!’ I had 40 pounds of fluid in me and my eyes were turning yellow.”
She’ll never forget her trip to the emergency room at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital in May 2018. “It was the day after Mother’s Day and it was pouring rain.” Boor had lost her mother the previous year and her father earlier and within hours she would receive her fateful diagnosis: liver failure.
What had gone wrong? She had been “totally healthy” and physically active before. After her workup and a liver biopsy, her doctors determined her kidney was dying – with only 15 percent function — due to the poisoning effects of herbal supplements she’d been given by her longtime acupuncturist. Without a transplant, she would die within days. Immediately, she was placed on the liver donor registry, status 1-A.
Miraculously, a match was found. Four days after entering the hospital, she had a new liver, courtesy of an anonymous 30-year-old female donor and the swiftly-acting medical team at Medstar Georgetown. “I have to tell you, that team of nurses and doctors and the care at Medstar, it was incredible,” she said. “She came into the hospital near death and,10 days later, she walked out to return to a healthy, normal life,” her transplant surgeon, Alexander Kroemer, M.D., said in Medstar Georgetown’s newsletter.
Boor was raised in a family dedicated to service. Her father served in the U.S. military. She served as the head of external affairs for United Service Organization (USO) for 10 years working with U.S. military service members, veterans and their families. Having received a liver transplant, Boor now believed she benefited from miracles in medicine and that her parents had been “looking out for [her]” throughout the ordeal.
So, she re-dedicated herself to giving back and serving others. One of her supervising physicians, transplant hepatologist Dr. Rohit Satoskar, shares her interest in promoting education and science to “close the gap” not only between those on organ transplant waiting lists and those whose lives are saved, but also on people’s understanding of how transformative being an organ donor can be. “It’s not just the impact on the recipient,” Boor said, “it’s the impact on the donor. It’s the impact on the donor family. It’s the impact on the community… Every donor can save eight lives and enhance over 75 more.”
Since Boor’s recovery, she and Satoskar have been working on launching Stop the Shortage, a nonprofit group dedicated to this transformative mission. They’ve recently received 501(c)(3) status and are putting together a board of directors. Satoskar serves as the director of medical services for the Medstar Georgetown Transplant Institute.
The word “transformative” comes up a lot when Satoskar discusses organ transplantation. It “not only helps save lives, but has significant “downstream effects,” he said. “I’ve seen people go from a state of near death to return to their communities, their jobs, back to being mothers and fathers, brothers and sister, and grandparents… I’ve worked with people who have gone back to running marathons. I’ve had patients who go on to survive and save the lives of others… It is a truly heroic act to save someone else through organ donation.”
But Satoskar is also concerned about how many people die each year as they await transplantation. “Unfortunately,” he said, “people are dying every day on the wait list because there aren’t enough organs to save their lives…” Because of inequities in the health care system and poor healthcare education, many people in need of organ transplantation, especially from marginalized groups, never even make it onto the wait lists, he pointed out.
According to Organdonor.gov, 17 people die per day waiting for an organ transplant and nine people are added to the waiting list. Last year nationwide, there were a “total of 41,354 transplants performed” while there are currently 106,250 people on the wait list,” Satoskar said. Without more organ donors, many of those are unlikely to survive. At Medstar Georgetown, however, local lives are being saved. “In FY 2021, we did about 144 liver transplants, adult and pediatric, nearly 300 kidney transplants, 19 small bowel transplants, 22 pancreas transplants and 4 islet cell transplants,” Satoskar said.
In Washington, D.C., Department of Motor Vehicles Director Gabriel Robinson recognized National Donate Life Month by encouraging “all District residents to register and become an organ donor.” He said, “Many of our neighbors are dying needlessly because the organs they need are not being donated.” This year, the D.C. DMV has “made it easier for residents to update their donor status without visiting a DMV Service Center,” he said. Residents can simply “download [their] free mobile app” from Dmv.dc.gov.
For more information on National Donate Life Month go to https://www.donatelife.net/ndlm/.