On April 16, 2015, Jamie Donaldson died while donating a kidney to his father, Frank Donaldson, at Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers, Florida. Per federal guidelines, Gulf Coast’s transplant services were suspended until an investigation is complete.
Liz Freeman, of the Naples Daily News, has been covering this story from the beginning. Below is her latest contribution. The original article can be found here. It, unfortunately, requires one to be a subscriber to see the whole thing. Transcription below.
Man who donated kidney to dad died from internal bleeding, autopsy shows
John “Jamie” Donaldson bled to death after donating a kidney to his ailing father at Gulf Coast Medical Center this past spring, according to an autopsy report released Wednesday.
The excessive bleeding was due to failure of a clamp or staple that should have sealed the renal artery stump after the left kidney was removed for the transplant, according to the Lee County Medical Examiner’s Office.
In addition, there was a small cut to the aorta just below the left renal artery but it had been closed by a metallic staple, the report said. The medical examiner said the death was accidental.
The autopsy for the 40-year-old Cape Coral resident sheds light on what went wrong during the April 16 living kidney transplant surgery at Gulf Coast. Donaldson’s death led the hospital to voluntarily halt all kidney transplants involving living donors while a probe was conducted.
Donaldson was donating a kidney to his 69-year-old father, Frank Donaldson, also of Cape Coral, who learned of his son’s death after waking up in the recovery room.
The suspension of transplants for living kidney donations took effect April 21 and is still in place. Other patients and their living donors are in waiting mode or transferring to other transplant programs.
The United Network for Organ Sharing, which operates the nation’s transplant program under contract with the federal government, was notified. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which contracts with UNOS, also has been informed.
Lee Memorial Health System, which runs Gulf Coast, issued a statement Wednesday:
“The autopsy supports our initial assessment that the patient experienced excessive bleeding, which is a rare, but known complication,” hospital spokeswoman Mary Briggs said. “All potential kidney donors go through an extensive medical clearance process, which includes a comprehensive medical and psychosocial evaluation to determine if they are suitable for organ donation. After undergoing this extensive evaluation, Mr. Donaldson was cleared for the kidney donation.
“Our deepest sympathies are with the Donaldson family during this difficult time and to our extraordinary caregivers who are dedicated to healing patients even in the most trying circumstances.”
Frank Donaldson said Wednesday he had not seen the autopsy report.
“I haven’t dealt with Jamie’s situation yet,” he said, using his son’s nickname. “I want to heal myself. Eventually I will. Until then, I have to get myself in decent shape.”
His son’s death after he received a new life without dialysis is not a good feeling, he said.
“No father should bury their child before him,” he said. “No matter what I do, it isn’t going to bring Jamie back.”
The transplant went well and Frank Donaldson goes weekly to his kidney specialists for progress checks, from blood work to adjustments for anti-rejection medications, he said.
The hospital reached out to him early after the transplant but not recently, and he has not spoken with the transplant surgeon. He isn’t surprised by that.
“I’m a tough old dude. I’ve been around a long time. I am pretty patient waiting for someone to talk to us,” he said. “Sometimes a one-on-one can save a lot of grief and costs in court.”
There’s another issue, he said, and that’s the $1 million life insurance policy he paid for in his son’s name in case something went wrong. His son’s wife, Christine Donaldson, is the beneficiary.
The life insurance company sent her a letter refusing to pay the claim, Donaldson said. She is having to deal with that issue now, along with how her three children are coping with the loss of their father, he said.