WOODLAND PARK, NJ – Over the last quarter century, Tess Lewis has witnessed the power of organ and tissue donation and transplantation with and without the aid of a microscope.
The longtime Woodland Park resident is a senior technical specialist and one of the longest serving professionals at NJ Sharing Network, New Jersey’s nonprofit organ procurement organization (OPO) celebrating 30 years of saving lives through organ and tissue donation.
Lewis came to NJ Sharing Network as a student finishing her studies in medical technology at Rutgers University School of Medicine and Dentistry, where a professor sparked her interest in immunology. Upon graduation in 1991, she was hired to work with a handful of technologists in the laboratory.
Today, Lewis oversees crossmatching in NJ Sharing Network’s state-of-the-art laboratory – open 24/7, 365 days a year and includes more than 30 staff members. As the department has grown, so has its ability to save lives; many matches are made today, which were previously thought to be incompatible.
“Tess epitomizes the dedication and passion of the laboratory staff at NJ Sharing Network,” said Dr. Prakash Rao, director of transplant laboratory and vice president of diagnostics and research operations, NJ Sharing Network. “She has played an important role in our life-saving work and we are fortunate to count her as one of our own.”
Although most of her work takes place within the laboratory, Lewis feels connected to the transplant patients, especially the ones who are more challenging to match. She remembers the excitement she and colleagues felt when a heart transplant patient who was particularly difficult to match finally received a transplant. “Thanks to scientific advancements, we are now able to match patients we thought would not be possible,” she explains.
Occasionally, Lewis has the opportunity to meet a transplant recipient or donor family to whom she feels connected. “It’s extremely gratifying to know your work played a role in their remarkable story,” she says.
Donna King, senior laboratory supervisor, who started just after the organization opened in 1987, hired Lewis in 1991.
“Tess is an important member of our team,” said King. “Her experience and dedication to our goals are invaluable. She embodies our mission and is always looking for opportunities to improve our life-saving work.”
To date, there are over 120,000 people waiting for a transplant and 22 die each day while waiting, but one organ donor can save eight lives and one tissue donor can restore health to over 75 people. In New Jersey, there are over 4,000 people on the waiting list and one person dies every three days waiting.
New Jersey residents can help save lives by registering as organ and tissue donors, having a conversation with family and friends and joining NJ Sharing Network at its upcoming events. To learn more, get involved and register as an organ and tissue donor, visit www.NJSharingNetwork.org.
NJ Sharing Network saves lives through organ and tissue donation. Located in New Providence, the organization recovers organs and tissue and belongs to a national network that helps the 120,000 people waiting for a transplant. In 2016, more lives were saved than ever before. Thanks to the selflessness of New Jersey organ donors and their families who said yes to donation, 613 people are alive today. This year, the organization is celebrating 30 years of saving lives.