SALT LAKE CITY – Intermountain Healthcare performed its 5,000th adult solid organ transplant in 2021 and had another record year, thanks to organ donors and their families and a transplant team committed to helping patients receive life-saving organ transplant opportunities despite the challenges of the COVID pandemic.
2021 was the third consecutive record-breaking year for the Intermountain Transplant Services team performing 289 solid organ transplants, including 170 kidneys, six pancreas, 94 liver, and 19 heart transplants.
“COVID may have turned the world upside down, but our transplant team has been creative and worked hard to change a lot of lives in another unprecedented year,” said Diane Alonso, MD, transplant surgeon and medical director of Intermountain Healthcare’s abdominal transplant program. “We’re proud of every caregiver at Intermountain Healthcare and the team who worked tirelessly to innovate ways to safely discover additional donor opportunities.”
The success of Intermountain’s transplant program, which serves patients throughout the nation, is the result of many multi-disciplinary teams working together like the National Kidney Foundation, DonorConnect, and the United Network for Organ Sharing.
Jesse Davis, 36, from North Ogden, Utah, was one of the 5,000 organ receivers of 2021. Jesse is a wife, mom to one little girl, and a 6th-grade school teacher at Midland Elementary.
She was diagnosed with PSC – Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, a rare liver disease that attacks the bile ducts, and she was told she would eventually need a liver transplant. She lived in pain until her liver almost gave out, and she was placed on the transplant list, August 16, 2020.
The first person to sign up to donate ended up being a match – that life-saving transplant came from a fellow teacher, friend, and mentor, Shawna Blamires, who teaches at Orchard Springs Elementary. Twelve years earlier, the two had met while teaching at a title one school in downtown Ogden, Utah.
January 5, 2021, surgeons at Intermountain Medical Center took part of Shawna’s liver and transplanted it into Jesse, who says that’s the day she got her life back.
“Life has been so wonderful and fun, and I owe it to Shawna, who didn’t wait until she was dead. She donated when it was needed,” said Davis. “I am a completely different person. I can play with my daughter, I ride my horses everywhere, and I am back teaching full time.”