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University of Missouri

Second Chance

Organ transplant coordinator’s job begins when patients pass away.



John McNeely does careful work with the dead so others can live. McNeely, BSN ’03, of Columbia is an organ procurement transplant coordinator with Midwest Transplant Network, one of 58 nonprofit organizations that procures organs from donors and matches them with recipients. Nationwide, more than 118,000 people are on waiting lists for organs, with more than 1,800 in Missouri alone.

McNeely’s colleagues work with people who are near death to see that their wishes are honored regarding organ donation. His job begins when patients pass away — that is, when their brains stop working. The former emergency room nurse keeps the other organs alive and finds recipients. “Only 1 percent of people qualify to be donors, so it’s a big deal,” he says. “Typically, it takes about 36 hours to evaluate the organs and screen to match recipients for blood type.” Midwest Transplant Network serves Kansas and western Missouri. “The closest patients are first in line, then I look regionally to Nebraska, Oklahoma and elsewhere.” All the work is worth it, McNeely says. “One donor can save up to eight lives and improve the lives of 50 others through tissue donations.”