Due to a lack of hospital bed, Darren Skousen says he couldn’t get a kidney transplant on Friday.
On Thursday, he said, he received a call from the Banner-University Medicine Transplant Institute that told him he was first in line for a donor’s kidney. He drove to central Phoenix, did the necessary preparation – including a test confirming that he was negative for COVID-19 – and returned to his Peoria home, where he packed a bag for his expected Thursday night stay at the hospital.
But several hours later, the transplant center called to say that the surgery had been canceled because there was no hospital bed available.
“I asked if they could do it at another hospital,” Skousen, 43, told the Arizona Republicon Friday. “They just said ‘no’.”
He joked that he asked if there was a wardrobe where he could put up, but the answer was the same.
By a spokesperson, Banner Health refused to comment and cited the patient’s integrity. Skousen’s transplant surgeon did not return a call for comment on Friday. The Republic examined medical records that Skousen shared with showing that he was placed on the banner of transplant last year.
A survey of US transplant centers conducted at the end of March documented a “significant reduction” of solid organ transplants since the new coronavirus pandemic began. The study, which was reported in the medical journal The Lancet, found that the biggest case was in kidney transplants.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine attributed the decline to uncertainty about how COVID-19 would affect transplant donors and recipients, as well as the potential for the virus to overwhelm health care.
If Skousen missed his opportunity to have a donated kidney, it is possible that the organ was delivered to another patient elsewhere.
United Network for Organ Sharing oversees the national organ transplant system with policies for managing donated organs and a computerized matching system. Its website states that donated organs are matched based on the medical characteristics of the donor and recipient.
“In general, local candidates receive organ offers before those listed in more remote hospitals,” it says. The website says that donated kidneys can only be kept for 24-36 hours.
Representatives in the network did not respond to requests for Skousen’s case on Friday.
For Skousen, the news was dropped after being on dialysis for 19 months.
“No kidney,” he announced on a Facebook page where he continues his journey to get a new kidney. “Everything looked good but there are no beds available for me to have a room.”
Hours before, he had been optimistic. This was the third time in less than three months that he had been contacted about a potential match. The first two calls did not work. This time it looked good: He was at the top of the list, blood work matched and he had a negative COVID test.
“Trying not to get too excited,” he wrote on his Facebook page on Thursday. “If you think about it, send some good vibes and prayers to the donor and their family.”
By Friday, he was philosophical.
“I don’t fault Banner in any way,” Skousen said in an interview. “If there is no room, there is no room.”
The state health department’s COVID-19 data online does not address bed capacity at specific hospitals, but it does indicate that the hospitals overall are mostly full.
As of Thursday, only 15 percent of bed care beds and 9 percent of adult intensive care beds were available, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. There have been nearly 92,000 positive COVID cases and 1,788 deaths.
The show blames COVID – “absolutely.”
“Wear a mask as much as possible, stay away (from the crowds),” he said. “It seems that the threat is real.”
People need to remember that COVID has harvesting effects, such as denying a hospital bed to a transplant candidate, he said.
Skousen, who works for the Glendale Parks and Recreation department, said he is taking the usual precautions for COVID, given his medical condition.
“I definitely have a mask, I have social distance, I work from home for the most part,” he said. He limits who can enter the home he shares with his fiancee and his children and has generally laid low.
He began dialysis in December 2018 after a previous kidney transplant failed. He has been a kidney patient since the age of 25, when complications from a blood vessel disease cost him a kidney.
The message without a bed was distracting, he said, but he had his “sin party” Thursday trying to stay positive.
“I’m a little sad, I’ve been waiting a little bit, not as long as other people,” Skousen said of being so close to getting a new kidney. “It’s a pretty tough process, I wait, doing dialysis every night.”
He is currently back to wait.
But his best takeaway from his experience is not about wearing masks or staying away from the crowds.
“Everyone should sign up to be an organ donor,” he said. “People should really think about being a living donor.”
Reach the reporter at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @maryjpitzl.
Read or share this story: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-health/2020/07/04/darren-skousen-kidney-transplant-hospital-beds-arizona/5373352002/