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2020 2nd Strongest Donation Year for LifeSource Despite COVID, Civil Unrest

LifeSource – the organ, eye, and tissue recovery first responders for Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and western Wisconsin – has announced that in 2020, during a global pandemic and civil unrest that upended American life and health, made possible the second highest number of organ donations in its 30-year history and helped save more than 600 lives.

The challenges inherent in orchestrating 603 life-saving organ transplants from 185 local donors in the face of COVID-19 and the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd were significant. However, LifeSource continued to find new ways to ensure our mission to heal and save lives through donation and transplant was unimpeded. Solutions included:

  • We tested every potential donor for COVID-19; active positive results immediately disqualified them.  
  • We worked with our partners to accept donations of N-95 masks so we could continue being on the ground in donor hospitals.
  • We moved all our advocacy and donor registration efforts online due to driver’s license office closures and stay-at-home orders.
  • We saw a 21% increase in donation referrals from hospitals and medical examiners – compared to 2019.
  • At the heart of our work, we supported over 1,000 grieving donor families over the phone and on Zoom when meeting in-person wasn’t possible. 

LifeSource first responders receive the call that a potential donor is on ventilated support; walk through the donation process with the donor’s grieving loved ones; and are responsible for preparing and transporting deceased donor organs, eyes and tissues to desperate recipients awaiting transplants. Every day, we work closely with grieving families who make the selfless decision to donate their loved one’s organs to people desperately waiting for a transplant – the start of a legacy that will live on. Examples during 2020 include:

  • At the heights of riots and chaos following Floyd’s death, our team received a call from a Minneapolis hospital: a young man named Tristan had died and he had the rare opportunity to donate his organs to 4 people. We made sure it happened.
  • As a first for the Upper Midwest: We helped facilitate two “Donation After Circulatory Death (DCD)” heart transplants as part of a national study using the revolutionary TransMedics Organ Care System, which mimics the human body and keeps organs viable longer.  

“LifeSource first responders are honored and proud to have made so many organ donations possible during 2020 – a year of unprecedented crises that brought out the best in our incredible team,” said Susan Gunderson, LifeSource Chief Executive Officer. “LifeSource first responders, 170 strong, moved mountains to advocate for the best interests of donor families and save the lives of recipients; the results tell the story of a year of success that we will continue to build upon during these uncertain times.”  


About Organ Donation: Facts & Statistics 

  • Organ donation is extremely rare. Only 1 percent of people who die get the opportunity to give those gifts. That’s due to a variety of medical and circumstantial criteria, including being free of active cancer and passing away at a hospital on ventilated support. 
  • It takes many people working in concert to make the donation process happen in a short period of time. Watch this video to learn more about the donation process. 

About LifeSource 
LifeSource is the non-profit organization dedicated to saving lives through organ, eye and tissue donation in the Upper Midwest, serving more than seven million people in communities across Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. We are relentlessly pursuing a day when no one dies waiting for a life-saving transplant.