Each month, LifeCenter Northwest selects a LifeSaver Award winner. This award honors and recognizes those who demonstrate a commitment to improving donation outcomes and culture through their actions, time and energy.

We are pleased to present this month’s LifeSaver Award to Dr. Mary King, Medical Director of the Pediatric ICU at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center and Jay Sandel, MSN, RN, Associate CNO for Critical Care Services at Harborview.

During a recent donation case, staff at LifeCenter Northwest and Harborview were stuck in a difficult situation. While our clinical staff identified strong potential for the patient to become a DCD (donation after circulatory death) donor, the patient was also extremely unstable—it was unclear if they would survive long enough for donation to be possible.

As has been standard practice during the pandemic, the patient was being tested for COVID—a necessary step prior to any organ or tissue recovery. Unfortunately, LifeCenter was told that lab results for this COVID test would not be available until much later in the day—so late that it imperiled the potential for donation.

This is exactly when Dr. King and Sandel sprang into action after being briefed by LifeCenter Northwest. Immediately, Sandel started making phone calls in an effort to expedite the COVID test. Simultaneously, Dr. King contacted a colleague to get help with the lab result, emphasizing that this was an urgent situation with live-saving potential. Because both Dr. King and Sandel went above and beyond to advocate for donation, the patient’s COVID test was fast-tracked.

With the test results due to arrive any minute, Dr. King and her pediatric ICU team took charge and prepared the OR so that the patient (who was a minor) could be extubated in a timely manner, while also coordinating logistics with LifeCenter’s inbound surgical team. Meanwhile, Sandel worked with the lab to ensure a speedy test result, which quickly came back negative.

“Without question, donation would not have happened in this case without the efforts of both Dr. Mary King and Jay Sandel,” said Ross Brownell, a Hospital Development Program Manager for LifeCenter Northwest. “This is everything we hope and wish our hospital partners would do in situations like this.”

Ultimately, two lives were saved through the recovery of this patient’s organs. In addition, this patient became a tissue donor, healing and improving many more lives through their tissue grafts. Both Dr. King and Sandel played significant roles in saving those lives, and we are proud to honor them with this LifeSaver Award.