HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

High Profile Organ Donation

Carson Palmer, the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback who suffered a terrible knee injury at the end of last season, has an organ donor to thank for his re-built leg.  The Cincinnati Enquirer reports,

Julie De Rossi spent the last night of her life passing out fliers for bands she was managing. As she drove home on a Houston freeway, a BMW traveling at twice the speed limit slammed her from behind.

The collision hurtled De Rossi's Volvo into a concrete barrier, crunching the car like an accordion and leaving the 44-year-old mother with only a faint pulse. She died later that day, the victim of a drunken driver.

De Rossi didn't become a meaningless traffic statistic in the early hours of March 17, 2004. An organ donor, she has since helped mend more than 50 people, including Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, 26, the National Football League's top-paid player.

The knee that Palmer heard snapping apart after a crushing hit during January's playoff game is now held together by Julie De Rossi's Achilles' tendon.

"It's amazing to think that somebody else is inside me," Palmer says.

"You look at the scar. You stare at it. You rub it. It's given me a second chance at life. And I'm extremely grateful to this person." . . . . .

When her life was taken, De Rossi left behind much of value. More than 92,000 people in the U.S. are awaiting organ transplants, according to Richmond, Va.-based United Network for Organ Sharing. Viable transplants can include the heart, kidneys, lungs, pancreas, ligaments, tendons and skin.

Edison, N.J.-based Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation, the biggest U.S. tissue bank, eventually received De Rossi's donations for processing. As is customary, her tissue was returned to the part of the country where the donation took place. Her tendon was stored in a specialized freezer at the Baylor College of Medicine.

On Jan. 10, Palmer was in surgery at Baylor, and Paulos selected the tendon. He attached it to Palmer's knee joint using screws that will eventually dissolve.

Carson Palmer has now signed up to be an organ donor himself.  Perhaps others will be encouraged to follow his lead.  [bm]

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