Organ donation vehicles are hope on wheels

Nationwide Organ Recovery Transport Alliance (NORA) helps Gift of Life and local transplant hospitals move organs and medical teams around the state.

Organs and transplant teams are probably on board

Ever wonder what that passing SUV covered in organ and tissue transplant branding is all about?

You probably ask yourself, who or what is inside? Where is it headed? And what could be the possible outcome?

The answers: There’s very likely a donated organ on board along with a physician or member of a transplant team, and they’re on their way to an airport, a hospital or a transplant center on a lifesaving mission.

Matthew Freil is director at the Nationwide Organ Recovery Transport Alliance (NORA), a company Gift of Life Michigan contracts with for donation related transportation.“Our vehicles represent hope,” said Matthew Freil, director at the Nationwide Organ Recovery Transport Alliance (NORA), a company Gift of Life Michigan contracts with for donation-related transportation. “We move equipment, organs and teams of experts who need to go urgently and safely across the state.”

Everyone and everything on board is dedicated to the opportunity for a new chance at life.

Brytany Bailey, director of organ preservation and placement at Gift of Life said NORA is crucial to donation and transplant logistics. They transport equipment, people and organs in a number of scenarios.

“The oversight they have is vital for ensuring timeliness. They often pick up out-of-state transplant teams from the airport and they transport them back to the airport with the organ or organs they will be transplanting, Brytany said.

“They also transport kidneys to geographically closer transplant centers by ground, kidneys to the airport for commercial flight, as well as teams and supplies to and from operating rooms.”

NORA works in more than 25 states, including Michigan and is growing rapidly to serve the needs of the greater transplant community. It custom brands each vehicle — and in some cases aircraft — with the organ procurement organization’s logo along with the logo for Donate Life, the national symbol for donation. If the state offers a Donate Life license plate (as Michigan does), you’ll see that on the vehicle as well.

“If you’re out and you see one of our vehicles — maybe our driver filling up at a gas station — ask them questions,” Matthew said. NORA drivers and teams are happy to interact with the public. “These are public safety professionals, and they love to talk about their lifesaving work.”

A NORA organ transplant transportation SUV outside the Gift of Life office.Their vehicles often travel right along with traffic when there’s less urgency. Other situations require a little more speed as the driver delivers people or organs to a transplant center where a patient is being prepared for surgery, Matthew said.

NORA’s transport teams are all active duty or former public safety professionals: EMS providers, firefighters, police officers and military officials.

“They understand the urgency of transplant,” Matthew said. “When we hire these men and women, we put a lot of faith and trust in them. They drive around transplant clinicians and donated organs — something a family has just given in their worst moments. We care as much as Gift of Life cares.”

Brytany agrees.

“They are a reliable, singular source for organ logistics with a vested interest in organ and tissue donation and transplantation,” she said. “NORA vehicles do indeed represent hope.”

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