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Organ transplant breakthrough used for first time in Arkansas



Cabot, Arkansas – After worrying that his liver ailment would prevent him from making it, a preacher and grandfather is grateful for another Christmas. During Terry Fortner’s surgery, a brand-new life-saving technology was utilized for the first time in Arkansas.

Terry Fortner preaches to the Zion Hill Baptist Church in Cabot every Sunday, but in September the minister considered himself to be the next to go. He was put on the transplant waiting list on September 24 when his fatty liver illness deteriorated.

“I was told to expect it to be months to sometimes years,” Fortner said. “As bad as I got the week before. I don’t know if I could have lasted that long.”

Fortner, though, just had to wait a week. A healthy liver was with Lifeshare of Oklahoma, and thanks to a new tool called the OrganOx Metra, it was able to travel instantly from Tulsa to Little Rock.

By supplying them with oxygen and nourishment, the technology protects donor livers so they can travel for up to 12 hours in perfect condition before being transplanted. The system may be able to keep a liver for up to two days, according to certain results, according to Jeff Orlowski, chief executive officer of Lifeshare of Oklahoma.

The Little Rock liver transplant procedure was carried out at UAMS. According to Raj Patel, M.D., a transplant surgeon at UAMS, organs begin to deteriorate quickly after being removed, and their state before arriving influences both the difficulty of the operation and the extent of post-operative procedures, such as transfusions.

The liver would have been flown on ice before the Food and Drug Administration authorized OrganOx in January 2022.

Orlowski said, “While the plane ride is shorter than the drive, getting it to and from the airport and all that don’t necessarily happen instantaneously. So, it’s a lot longer process than just the flight.”

The OrganOx is the first organ procurement business in the United States owned and run by LifeShare. Since May, Oklahoma has utilized theirs four times.

“All of those patients have done really well, and all of them were organs that probably otherwise would not have been transplanted,” Orlowski stated.

Health professionals estimate that 20 people pass away each day while waiting for an organ. There was just one thing on Fortner’s mind as soon as his liver was delivered and he had surgery.

“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou are with me’, and I felt God’s presence with me,” he quoted to himself. “For whatever reason he chose to leave me here, I’m in his hands.”

Fortner has shed 80 pounds as a result of the procedure. The grandfather is treating his body with the utmost respect, just as the machine did with his new liver.

“I preached it, and I believed it, but now I’ve experienced it. God answers prayers. He still works miracles,” Fortner insisted.

Fortner is advocating for more people to sign up as organ donors because of his prolonged life. 120,000 people nationwide are waiting for an organ, compared to just 45% of Americans. Nearly 300 people in Arkansas are reportedly in need of organ transplants, according to the organization Every Organ Donor.

In 2023, UAMS aspires to have its very own OrganOx Metra.