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'Transplanting Through a Pandemic: How the Miami Transplant Institute Stood Up to COVID-19'

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A new short film highlights the delicate and difficult operations of a Florida transplant center as the doctors and administration coped with the coronavirus pandemic in one of the nation’s hotspots.

The coronavirus pandemic forced hospitals to completely rethink how they operate, with many facilities changing operations day by day to cope with the increasing severity of infections and spread.

The Miami Transplant Institute saw how New York struggled early on, and they knew that Miami was likely to turn into a major hotspot as well.

“At the very beginning, it was very concerning, and administration took things day by day,” transplant director Elizabeth Shipman told Fox News. “When the guidance came out, transplant was considered an emergency operation, so we were able to stay open.”

The institute sent many coordinators home to work remotely, which presented challenges to keeping things running smoothly. The institute managed to utilize telehealth and eventually integrated it into their process.

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The more difficult obstacle was how much the institute relied on help from other facilities to perform their services, including transportation and screening.

“We are the largest transplant center in the country, and we depend on import organs,” Dr. Giselle Guerra, director of transplants for the institute, told Fox News. “So 85% of our organs are imports. So we had to actually do a lot of readjustments in order to continue to transplant.”

The institute had to work fast to set up the infrastructure necessary to continue operations. Guerra said that not many transplant centers were able to continue their work during the past year, which presented the institute with a unique chance to continue serving the community.

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The most significant element, she said, was educating the community. The institute worked with the Jackson Health System and local leaders to help establish the most up-to-date guidance and outreach.

“We had to keep reeducating,” Guerra explained. “That was one of the most challenging things because first we had to know who we were trying to educate.”

The staff pulled together, though, and helped each other through the difficult time, as did many health professionals.

“I think we handled every decision as gracefully as we could and were able to be there to support our employees,” Shipman said.  “We really leaned on each other as a system, to support each other through it.”

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The film, “Transplanting Through a Pandemic: How the Miami Transplant Institute Stood Up to COVID-19,” can be viewed in full on YouTube.

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