HOLLAND, Mich. — Life-changing donations of tissue saw a sharp increase in Ottawa County last year after the medical examiner office began using a new software for referrals.

The Medicolegal Death Investigation software is cloud-based and allows officials to share real-time case information for non-hospital deaths.  The county began using the it in November 2017.

“If it’s two…or three in the morning, Gift of Life is notified,” said Sundy Vargas, administrative assistant at the Ottawa County Medical Examiner Office. “Being able to coordinate with each part of our department [in] real time…the numbers speak for themselves.”

Tissue donation must be initiated within 24 hours of a person’s death. The new system allows Gift of Life, an organization that facilitates transplants, to expedite the process. 

Using the software, the Ottawa County Medical Examiner Office referred 116 people for donations from Nov. 2017-18. The county only issued 45 referrals in the previous seven years.

“Our efficiencies have dramatically increased with this program,” Vargas. “So, it can only get better from here.”

Without the service, Gift of Life would not have the referrals, said Ashley Brown, who works for the organization. Her brother, Josh Braat, donated his tissue, helping several people after he died by suicide in Nov. 2017.

“I know Josh would be so proud and thankful to know that he was able to help other individuals, but also that they are helping to facilitate those wishes for others,” Brown said.

Tissue donations include cornea, tendons, heart valves, bones and more. One person can help up to 75 others through tissue donation.

To become a donor, visit the Gift of Life website.

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