Cardiologists need more heart donors

Heart transplant survivors, Photo: CTK

It may go into the book of world records as one of the largest gatherings of heart transplant patients ever. Cardiologists called a meeting for the press to meet transplant survivors in hopes to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation. The meeting also marked the 500th heart transplant performed in the Czech Republic. 300 are still alive.

Heart transplant survivors,  Photo: CTK
A large white, modern building houses Prague's Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine. The patients who gathered here on Thursday are living proof that heart transplants are worthwhile. Every year doctors at the institute save dozens of lives. But it could be more. Czech hospitals face long waiting lists for organ donations. On average there are between 50 and 60 people on the waiting list. Approximately 10 of them will not receive a new heart in time.

The President of the Czech Transplantation Society, Eva Pokorna, remarks that there was a significant decrease in organ donations after a scandal in the 1990s when doctors were suspected of illegally selling organs.

"The Czech Republic was once ranked 2nd in Europe in finding organ donors. They decreased for several reasons, and the scandal didn't help. As a result more family members did not want the organs of their deceased relatives to be donated. Also a change in Czech legislation on declaring someone dead made it more complicated for doctors to attain needed organs."

Heart transplant survivors,  Photo: CTK
Cardiologist Jan Pirk of the institute gave further statistics.

"For every million people in the Czech Republic there are 6 heart donors. That ranks us about 8th or 10th in the world. Ironically Spain is a very Catholic Country and the number of people donating organs there is twice as high. That is because the doctors there actively go out and look for donors. They make contact with the anesthetics and resuscitation departments and keep track of the situation."

This weekend there will be a conference held in Prague. 10 European Union health ministers may discuss the possibility of collaborating in over-the-boarder organ donations.

The topic of heart disease prevention was not the main priority of discussion at Thursday's meeting. However, one panel member suggested that the kind of lifestyle enjoyed by many Czechs is not helping the situation.

"One can hardly influence genetics but you can influence one's lifestyle and it's true that in this country it was extremely bad - obesity, incidents of hypertension, high cholesterol levels, bad diet, animal fats and so on. So this can be influenced and it was to some extent. So, the mortality rate from cardiovascular diseases has been slowly going down."