Transplant Center coming to Northern Nevada

There is a move to raise money to open a transplant center in the Reno area.
Published: May. 11, 2023 at 2:44 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - The Nevada Donor Network Foundation is narrowing in on a $35 million fundraising campaign goal to build the first organ transplant center in northern Nevada. It needs to raise another $20 million as of the day this online report was published.

This will add a layer of protection to you and your family that until now has not existed before.

On July 2, 2021 an emergency room doctor diagnosed Chris Connolly of Reno with end-stage liver failure and gave him three months to live.

“It was devastating news to myself and my family. How do you process something like that?” said Connolly.

His condition became critical at the end of October, but with no transplant center in northern Nevada all options became increasingly difficult.

“My wife started to reach out to hospitals as far away as Arizona, University of San Francisco, Stanford Medical University, and the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. We kept getting the same answer. We would love to help, but there’s no room,” Connolly said.

Prior to 2023, the option for anyone in northern Nevada in need of a life-saving transplant was to move or die.

“They’re having to relocate because they have to prove to that transplant center that they can get there in a moment’s time for when an organ becomes available. They also have to have the financial resources to live in and around that new area,” said Nevada Donor Network President, Steve Peralta.

Connolly says he was within hours or days from death when his ICU doctor at Renown Regional Medical Center found an open bed for him at Stanford Medical University in Palo Alto, California, but only on the condition his wife relocated with him to provide constant care during the healing process.

“How are we going to do this? How are we going to uproot our entire life having a house, two dogs, car payments, jobs, and move out of State so I could live? It was an almost insurmountable task. I mean how do you even begin to think that? Trying to do this when you’re under stress and pressure of having a severe medical emergency and almost certain terminal illness is terrifying,” Connolly said.

Peralta is fighting to prevent other northern Nevadans from facing this same difficult situation.

“The dream is to help end the wait where no Nevadan has to travel outside the state to receive a lifesaving organ transplant,” Peralta said.

His team is now well on its way to the creation of a transplant center in northern Nevada in what will most likely be in Reno.

“Keeping families together and having support groups close to you as a patient is just a crucial part of recovery. Being detached and away from your family and your support group and your friends is terrifying,” said Connolly.

It will serve people who live within a two or three-hour drive, which would include Winnemucca, Fallon, Gardnerville, and all communities around Lake Tahoe.

The project remains in the fundraising stage. The goal is to move forward on this plan after $35 million is raised.

“No dollar is too small. No money is too large to help this endeavor. We are truly helping Nevadans.”

“Every dollar that’s donated to our foundation is going back to fund the transplant institute,” Peralta said.

The transplant center in Reno could perform its first kidney transplant in July of 2024 and if that goes well its first liver transplant could be performed in 2025.

The Nevada Donor Network’s next goal is to perform heart and lung transplants in the northern Nevada transplant center.

Unfortunately, Connolly never had the option to get a transplant close to his home, his friends, and his family.

With all the out-of-network bills and the cost to live in Palo Alto, California for about 4 months his bills added up to about $5 million.

“We literally had to drain every penny that we had. We cashed in our 401K. We cashed in savings. There were charities held. Money was donated and although that has kept us going it doesn’t even scratch the surface,” Connolly said.

“I think a transplant center in northern Nevada specifically would be a huge benefit to people in my position.”

Another big motivation to build a transplant center in Reno is to help Nevadans save Nevadans.

As of the first quarter of 2023 95 percent of the organs harvested in Nevada left the State.

Click here if you would like to donate to the transplant facility in Reno.