Innovation Award goes to Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, lab for critical COVID-19 testing of organ donors during the pandemic
“We can absolutely count on this hospital as a true, collaborative partner that works closely with Gift of Life no matter the circumstances to save and improve lives,” said Dorrie Dils, president and CEO of Gift of Life Michigan.
David Claeys, interim co-chief operating officer of Beaumont Health and president, Dearborn and Farmington Hills hospitals, said the Dearborn team is the epitome of Beaumont’s mission to improve health, instill humanity and inspire hope.
“This team not only goes above and beyond to help families before, during and after the donation process, they exemplify this compassion every day at Beaumont, Dearborn,” Claeys said. “We are very honored to provide this care and appreciate the recognition.”
The lab at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, also received the organization’s Innovation Award for stepping up to test potential organ donors for COVID-19, the first hospital to do so when the pandemic hit.
The Donate Champion Award winners were honored at a gala April 1, bringing together donors’ families, organ recipients and their families, and those who work tirelessly around the clock to support organ donation.
Gift of Life Michigan’s Hospital Donation Advocate at Beaumont, Dearborn, Rebecca Williams, nominated the hospital for the highest honor, calling the team “a ceaseless champion for donation.”
“Beaumont, Dearborn began flying the Donate Life flag permanently well over a decade ago – the first hospital in the state to do so,” Williams said in her nomination, pointing out the hospital had a record-setting 14 organ donors in 2021. “They widely promote organ donation by supporting Gift of Life donor drives at local community events like farmers’ markets and summer music events like Jazz on the Ave, paying particular attention to outreach to diverse communities. Dearborn also has a beautiful organ donor memorial, a stunning glass and wood multimedia art installation. And families of organ donors receive a unique, hand-blown glass dove to memorialize the gift of life their loved one gave in a special hospital ceremony.”
Beaumont quality manager and registered nurse Mariea Nash helps lead the efforts at Beaumont, Dearborn. From working with families to ensure a flawless donation process, Nash said the team at Dearborn works with the recognition they are handling a sacred gift.
“Our work brings something positive and affirming to heartbreaking situations,” said Nash. “To be the people these families rely on during this time is an honor and tremendous responsibility. The team here at Dearborn is a like a family, and we extend that feeling to patients and their families. That’s the least we can do when making the decision to donate is so big.”
The lab team at Beaumont, Royal Oak, was also honored at the Gift of Life gala with the Innovation Award for the team’s work during the pandemic, testing for COVID in potential organ donors.
“Without their assistance from the initial days of the pandemic until now, Gift of Life Michigan wouldn’t have been able to continue with the donation process safely,” said GOLM Laboratory Administrative Director Walt Herczyk in his nomination of the team. “Beaumont was the first laboratory who was willing to test our samples for COVID when the pandemic hit in March of 2020. They accepted Gift of Life Michigan’s request without any hesitation.”
The concern: donated organs can carry the COVID-19 virus from infected donors, who need to be tested before the donation process takes place. Recipients who are very ill to begin with are more susceptible to poor outcomes from COVID-19 due to the immunosuppressant, anti-rejection medications required after a transplant. Donation cannot take place without testing nasal and lung samples during the time-sensitive donation process.
“During the initial height of the pandemic, Beaumont managed to integrate our samples and would have results back to GOLM within 6 to 12 hours, even though their turn-around-time for results was typically 24 hours,” said Herczyk. “And they still give Gift of Life samples priority to make donation possible.”
Nestled in the Research Institute building on the south end of Beaumont, Royal Oak's campus, the Molecular Pathology Laboratory processes everything from cancer to COVID tests. But in February 2020, healthcare in the United States was just hearing about the virus making news in other parts of the world.
Lab manager John Gibson, who has been with Beaumont Health for 30 years, said Beaumont, Royal Oak, Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Barbara Ducatman championed the lab to set up a COVID-19 testing protocol - designing, ordering, receiving and setting up the equipment and supplies needed - as fast as possible. The process, which typically takes months, was implemented in about four weeks.
“We were, thankfully, ahead of the game,” said Gibson. “The whole team came together. And then, when COVID hit, it was like a wave. We’re grateful to have played a part in getting the pandemic under control.”
Dils said the testing ensured transplants could continue.
“We needed COVID testing for hundreds of potential donors,” she said. “Our lab isn’t set up to run those, so we needed to get creative. John Gibson and his laboratory team at Beaumont, Royal Oak really came through for us. Beaumont made our tests and donation a priority. We couldn’t ask for a better partner helping us honor life through donation.”