By Martha Bebinger, WBUR
Kaiser Health News
On the final day of June 2015, Colin LePage rode waves of hope and despair. It started when LePage found his 30-year-old son, Chris, at home after an apparent overdose. Paramedics rushed Chris by helicopter to one of Boston’s flagship medical centers.
Doctors revived Chris’s heart, but struggled to stabilize his temperature and blood pressure. At some point, a doctor or nurse mentioned to LePage that his son had agreed to be an organ donor.
“There was no urgency or, ‘Hey, you need to do this.’ I could see genuine concern and sadness,” LePage said, his voice quavering.
The next morning, after another round of tests showed no signs of brain activity, LePage said goodbye to the son who’d been revived but wasn’t fully alive.
“I sat in a chair with him and held his hand,” LePage said. “It wasn’t clinical. It didn’t feel like someone’s gaining something here. I knew that someone was, and that’s comforting that someone else has been able to have a little piece of my son and some of their pain is not what it used to be.”
Chris’s liver is now working in the body of a 62-year-old pastor. His case is one among the nearly nine-fold increase so far in donations from drug users across New England since 2010. So far this year, more than one in four, or 27 percent, of donations in New England are from people who died after a drug overdose. Nationally, that rate is 12 percent for the same time period.
“It’s remarkable and it’s also tragic,” said Alexandra Glazier, president and CEO of the New England Organ Bank. “We see this tragedy of the opioid epidemic as having an unexpected life-saving legacy.” [Read more…]