09 Oct President of Transplant Recipients International Discusses Transplantation Experience in Time of COVID-19
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Jim Gleason, National President of Transplant Recipients International Organization (TRIO), discusses what organ transplant patients are experiencing during the pandemic, and some tips they ought to consider to help ease some of the burden.
Mr. Gleason also discusses his role in the development of the recently released AlloCare app is in the AppStore — https://apps.apple.com/us/app/allocare-transplant-health/id1497962881?ign-mpt=uo%3D2 – to help post-transplant recipients navigate their day-to-day health.
MedicalResearch.com: Would you describe your journey with organ transplantation?
Mr. Gleason: I was diagnosed with heart failure at the age of 49, 2 years later listed with Penn Medicine in Philadelphia in September of 1994, and received my donor heart on October 19, 1994.
After I received my transplant, I was home from the hospital 7 days later and able to return to work in 3 months as a computer manager with Unisys Corp in Blue Bell, PA, where I worked for the next dozen years before my retirement.
Once retired, I dedicated my time to raising awareness of the need for organ donation and the success of transplants ever since. Today, 26 active and fulfilled years with my new heart and gift of life, I am able to live life to its fullest at age 77. I am now also coincidentally married to an organ donor of 15 years, who donated her 13-year-old son’s organs when he was hit by a car on his bike back in 1997.
MedicalResearch.com: How are transplant patients affected by the current COVID-19 epidemic? Are they more susceptible to infection or severe disease?
Mr. Gleason: Like so many older transplant recipients, I find myself in three COVID-19 high-risk categories: over the age of 60, diabetic (from the transplant medication), and immune-suppressed due to the life-time meds all transplant recipients must take. So, yes, we are more susceptible but taking the recommended precautions (maybe with more than average discipline given that death facing experience back in ‘94). However, I feel blessed to not been affected but also in knowing none of my extended community of transplant friends have come down with COVID-19 either – so continuing to count those daily blessings (so far)!
MedicalResearch.com: Has the hold on elective surgeries across the country impacted the availability of suitable organs?
Mr. Gleason: Surgeries from living donors, which are most often elective, were being pushed out due to COVID-19 restrictions. While there was a decrease in living donor surgeries in the earlier months of the pandemic, I’ve seen reports that this has been offset by recent increasing deceased donor and recipient surgeries, so hopefully, that dip will be overcome in the annual resulting figures as we see those trends catching up with 2019’s record breaking numbers now.
MedicalResearch.com: What is the mission of the AlloCare app? How is it designed to influence patient care and control of their own health?
Mr. Gleason: I see the AlloCare app as the first personal-use technology being made available to transplant patients (at no charge) that will help them maintain the discipline that is so critical to positive long-term transplant success. With clear goal-supported easy tracking of key metrics that are user-configurable to both early and long term post-transplant stages, the transplant patient not only benefits from education and reinforcement of those focused elements (medical number tracking, diet, exercise, weight, etc.) but also offers their transplant team accurate records for follow-up clinic visits – critical to organ survival and healthy living long-term. The patient can also adjust measuring and record-keeping over the years, thus allowing for the ability to configure what the app tracks important to its long-term effective use by the patient over time.
MedicalResearch.com: Why should patients download the app?
Mr. Gleason: From the early days after transplant, when the new daily practices essential to continued success with a new organ and recovery from major surgery, life is filled with overwhelming new health practices and challenges. This app makes that process easier, especially as the patient learns to be fully compliant with the many directives given by their medical team as they leave the hospital and then deal with many follow-up clinical visits. As life returns to a ‘new normal’ the app becomes even easier to maintain its use as focus changes on what and how much tracking is essential in the long-term. Anything that supports that, as this AlloCare app does, is a great resource to increase the long-term survival that so many enjoy in today’s world of modern medicine. And to think, with so much medical expense all around this transplant event, getting something for free as is the case with this app, well, it’s just a ‘no-brainer!’
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