Could detailed processes avoid a family’s pain– after kidney was thrown away?

Preparing for a donor surgery is anything but easy, but definitely worth it! With months of preparation and testing for the donor and the recipient. It’s not only difficult for the donor and recipient, it’s a family affair– knowing you have two family members in surgery at the same time is very stressful!  I know this first hand since I am a sister who donated on behalf of her brother just a year ago! I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for the opportunity.

As Good Morning America reported this morning, when a Toledo Hospital threw away a kidney just before it was scheduled to be implanted into his sister, I can only imagine the devastation the family felt.  The hospital admits they threw the kidney away, but they are not admitting substandard medical care,Fudacz family lawyer James E. Arnold told

As a lean six sigma black belt, I see first hand how errors can occur when detailed processes
are not in place. Yes, mistakes can happen, particularly human error– however having a concise process that eliminates the possibility of costly mistakes is essential.lss

What is Lean Six Sigma (LSS)? Six-Sigma is the pursuit of accuracy and making everything right the first time. Lean is the pursuit of speed and therefore doing it as quickly as possible. When a hospital adapts LSS they utilize a set of tools and techniques/strategies for process improvement, LSS was originally developed by Motorola in 1981, however I believe it’s best known after Jack Welch made it a main focus at General Electric in 1995. Source: Wikipedia

Consider the flow of making a pot of coffee. Do you have a clear process every morning when making coffee? Do you use the exact amount of coffee, filters and water for quality and consistency? Is your system of making coffee done in the least amount of steps as possible, therefore is everything ready, easy to access and prepped?

Many hospitals and organizations are adopting Lean Six Sigma’s strategies to reduce the amount of errors and increase patient quality. In Toledo, Doctors tried to resuscitate the kidney, but it was rendered unusable, both sides have said. After a state investigation, the hospital’s live-donor program was temporarily suspended, but has since been resumed. Read full article

Based on the article noted above, The university at Toledo had “created a unique environment of safety in transplant and other programs that is second to none”.

This is a terrible way to learn and I know hospitals work diligently to avoid costly mistakes from both the patient’s experience and the reputation of the hospital. I would guess– they have changed the process in how they manage donor’s organs today and its something we can all learn from!

After all we are not in competition when it comes to saving lives, we are all in this together!

In Lean Six Sigma we are always looking at “continuous improvement”! Tell us some of the ways you see improvement in the transplant community?






Wanting too much leaves little time, five ways to get focused!

At times I have so many things I want to do, I can barely focus. For example, I want to learn a new language, finish my book and make a difference in organ transplant and that’s just the beginning. I realized this morning that I am not focused on the things that matter. Having too many “wants” does not allow you the time and energy to commit to what is important.  Am I destined to have a bucket list that is all desire without accomplishment?

Too many wants leaves you feeling unfocused and not committed!time

I had a Ah ha moment where I realized my problem is that I was not committed to what was really important. For example, if I went back to school would I really be able to finish my book, work, etc? What would I be gaining? Or more importantly would I have the time to follow my true passion?  I realized I needed to prioritize my list to what was doable in a specific time frame (while I still can) and make choices based on what I really wanted.

So here is how I cleared up the noise in my head and got focused!

Your WHY behind each goal is your motivation, be sure to ask why you want to make it happen.

1. Make a list of everything you want to do and do your best not to rate it — just write them down.

2.  Organize your “wants” into categories for example; Work, Money, Travel, Relationships.  If it’s in your head –  write it down.

3. Next prioritize your list. Ask yourself…  Is this something immediate or long-term? What is the “WHY” for wanting it? Keep in mind your WHY will motivate you when things look blurry. Rate your list based on what is most important to you.

4. Take your “A” priority goals and start planning. What do I need to do to make this happen? Create a list of items that need to be completed before you achieve each goal.

5. Finally, review your goals daily. Check off each item “your to do’s” that move you closer to each goal!

Today, clear the clutter and feel the certainty of moving towards your goals– your bucket list!

Have you kept a list in the past and found it worked well? Tell us about your experience?

Share your experiences!




One year after my donor surgery brings new awareness and passion

The day comes to an end as I sit outside warmed by the sun, I listen to the trees swaying in the breeze and I contemplate the events of the past year, I feel unsettled, like the seasons in New York, I’m in transition. I wish I could feel the lightness, the relief and elation I felt the first few months after my donor surgery. I’m sure feeling unsettled is partly due to my father passing away just last week.

A year ago today I donated my kidney on behalf of my brother and wow what a year it’s been. I walked into the hospital the day before my surgery filled with stress from the prior eight months. With anticipation, I expected to let go and after recuperating I would get back to my life. What happened was very different, so many gifts have come my way and nothing is what I expected!Me - Rochester, NY

As I look back over my previous blogs, I can see how far I have come.  it was truly an amazing experience– by donating a kidney I was able to save my brother’s life. I had merely set out to help and thought in four-six weeks I would resume my life.

Instead it catapulted me emotionally, physically and fueled a new passion. My first two weeks after my surgery was spent at the Family House in Pittsburgh. It was an experience that forever changed me; I became connected to the lives of other transplant families, where we would share our experiences in the kitchen after a long day of visiting loved ones in the hospital.

For me– I was healing and in pain, but happy – I had connected with my Mom in a new way, I had let her in. I felt truly grateful for the entire experience and happiness poured through every fiber of my being. Three weeks after my surgery I traveled to Los Angles and then flew to Japan to visit my children and family.

I returned from traveling six weeks after my surgery and felt ready to take on the world. However, I found that I was still not feeling myself physically or emotionally and was desperately trying to hang on to the feelings I had earlier. Much of my time was spent researching organ transplant, I trusted I was moving in the right direction as my passion built. The time I spent at the Family House with families either waiting for a transplant or loved ones in the hospital receiving an organ had forever fueled this new passion in me.

It wouldn’t be till my eleventh month after surgery that I truly felt I was physically healed. I don’t know if this is typical for most donor patients, I attribute this to my age or perhaps hot yoga, which I was doing three to four times a week. It was after another episode of passing out that my Doctor told me to stop hot yoga, the heat was depleting my energy and affecting my organs, particularly my heart. Yoga itself is wonderful and really helped with my overall healing in mind, body and spirit. I now continue to do yoga without the heat.

A couple of months ago, while attending a TED conference, I met a surgeon from the University of Rochester who is truly passionate about donor registry- Dr. Chris Barry. I now reside on his board of directors at and I look forward to doing some interesting work. In addition to that I am working on a NIH grant to research the donor experience. Our hope is to create a product that will drive a positive donor experience and reduce the time it takes to be approved.

When I look back on this year, I have learned a great deal about myself, but most of all I learned to trust my gut, follow my instincts and to love me. I am grateful for the experience, the people I have met and a passion that brings new meaning to my life.

What I know for sure is that when life breaks us open, we feel more present, more compassionate and grateful. Ready for the next adventure!

How was your experience after organ donation?

With gratitude.