Dedicated staff take on big job of retrieving precious organs

A male and female nurse stand in an operating theatre
Perioperative Clinical Nurse Specialist Patrick Ferguson and Perioperative Nurse Unit Manager Kathryn Grayson in the Rockingham General Hospital theatre used for organ retrieval
February 27, 2020

A small but dedicated surgical team at Rockingham General Hospital (RGH) is playing an important role in organ donation for chronically ill patients across Australia.

Over the past six years 16 organ retrieval procedures have been performed at the hospital by a multi-disciplinary theatre team, supported by colleagues in the Intensive Care Unit.

Perioperative Nurse Unit Manager Kathryn Grayson and Perioperative Clinical Nurse Specialist Patrick Ferguson helped set up the service along with Clinical Nurse Sonya McInroy.

“I’ve been fortunate to be involved in 10 organ retrievals at RGH, and each and every one is a memory that I will keep forever,” Kathryn said.

“Scrubbing for the first RGH retrieval was an amazing opportunity and an incredibly humbling experience.

“As a nurse, these procedures have changed me forever, and of course they also have a huge impact on the donor family and the patient, sometimes several patients, receiving the much-needed organs.”

Like patients’ family members, Kathryn and Patrick appreciate the feedback they get from DonateLife about the impact the donations have made.

Kathryn said one person who had a new chance of life commented “I have been able to come off dialysis” and Patrick remembers another recipient saying the best thing was “to be able to breathe”.

Patrick said the RGH Executive had supported the teams conducting the organ retrievals.

“It also helps that we have built a close network with staff at two other tertiary sites, Fiona Stanley Hospital and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, and there is a group of top surgeons in the transplant units at FSH not far away to assist,” he said.

Kathryn and Patrick said they were honoured to contribute, but acknowledged the role isn’t for everyone as it can be emotionally and physically draining.

“Everyone on the team volunteers for the integral role they play, each time they are needed to swing into action,” Kathryn said.

“We acknowledge and appreciate each and every person on the retrieval theatre team.

“RGH could not provide this service without the dedication and support of the theatre staff.”

Everyone involved works to look after physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual needs of the patients, their families and other staff.

There is strict compliance with policies, legislation and procedures before any case can come to theatre, and even though the call could come at any moment, it doesn’t happen often.

Follow South Metropolitan Health Service on Facebook (external site) and keep up to date with all the latest news at Rockingham Peel Group.