New technology is helping make organ transplants easier and better — and saving more lives

Doctor explains how new technology is improving organ transplant process

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Researchers have found a way to make compromised organs more viable, which doctors say will help save more lives through transplants.

A vigil in Delaware County over the weekend remembered Damien Hocker, a 17-year-old killed in an accident. 

His father revealed he was an organ donor. 

"From what I'm told, he was able to save five different lives," Damien's father, Doug Hocker, said. 

April is Donate Life Month, which highlights the importance of organ donors for helping to save people like bird expert Eduardo Iñigo Elias, who received a liver transplant. 

"So thankful, No. 1, for the organ donor and his family. I wanna thank them for this opportunity to extend the lease of my life," Elias said. "My family is grateful."

Elias had severe liver cirrhosis from non-alcoholic liver disease. He spent more than six years on the transplant list waiting for a new liver as his health deteriorated.

When a donor liver finally became available, doctors determined the organ's fat content compromised its viability.

"We try to use every organ, but there's certain organs that can't be used, like a fatty liver, like an older liver," said Dr. Leona Kim-Schluger, associate director of The Recanati/Miller Transplantation Institute at Mount Sinai. 

Doctors at Mount Sinai used a new technology called organ perfusion on the donated liver. 

"This machine allows the organs to be literally cleansed," Kim-Schluger said. "You're putting in nutrients, oxygen. You're measuring the viability of the organ. It allows us to use many more organs and obviously … the more organs you have, the more lives you save."

It's been more than 18 months since Elias' transplant. He hopes sharing his story encourages more people to sign up to be organ donors. Doctors say each donor can save eight lives and enhance more than 75 more. Donors can also use organs from living donors for some transplants, such as kidneys.

"I don't have any more complications. My medications are working. My liver functions are normal. My energy is back," Elias said. "Everything is just perfect."

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