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How organ donations broke records even during the pandemic


FROM THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Overcoming myths about being a donor, a new LifeLink organ center opened at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital and medical advances paved the way

Last fall, Jeff Hackman’s kidney disease turned serious. He felt tired all the time, got winded easily. Years earlier, his older sister, Dawn Martin of Marietta, made a promise: when the time comes, she would gladly donate one of hers. Within a few months, the siblings, who were a good match, passed a battery of tests, and a surgery date was set for Dec. 8.

But with omicron sweeping through the country at a dizzying pace, the siblings were filled with worry about the timing for this life-saving procedure, concerned the pandemic could delay the surgery or even thwart the procedure indefinitely.

“Absolutely it was the forefront of our minds,” said Hackman, a Miami-based firefighter and first responder, said about COVID-19.

In the end, the surgery went off without a hitch. Hackman, who is 46, married and father to two teenagers, got a new lease on life. He was part of a remarkable trend: last year, in the throes of the COVID pandemic, a record-breaking number of organ donations took place in the U.S., particularly in Georgia.

Across the country, 41,354 organ transplants took place in 2021, a 6% increase from the previous year. In Georgia, the increase was sharper with 1,243 organ transplants taking place — marking an 18% increase from 2020.

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