From her office at St. Joseph's, Brandi Krushelniski, BSN, plays a life-and-death role in the hospital's lung transplant program, working round-the-clock with donor organizations throughout the nation to identify the right donor for the right patient.
The mother-of-two has worked a lot of 24-hour shifts to get the job done. "You have to have a passion for life, for people and for the work you do every day."
Krushelniski and her incredible team of coordinators are on constant alert. Once she receives notice of a livesaving donor offer for her desperately ill patients, she must immediately evaluate it on the United Network of Organ Donors website based on a variety of criteria outlined by the patients on the transplant list including age, lifestyle, and lung size.
"Our patients are the heroes in my life. They handle their lives with such grace and tenacity even while they are so sick," Krushelniski says, also emphasizing the bravery of donor families who are going through their darkest hours, and yet make a tough decision to save the life of another.
The retrieval and delivery of the organs must be coordinated down to the minute. Krushelniski explains that once an offer is accepted, she immediately dispatches a St. Joseph's transplant surgeon who flies to the donor's location and physically examines the lungs before procuring them.
"We have to get the transplant patient to the hospital fast too," she adds. "There have been times when I couldn't reach the patient and had to call local police to help me track them down. There is no time to waste."
From there, Krushelniski orchestrates the complex minute-by-minute delivery of the surgeon and precious organs back to the hospital so that the receiving patient is prepped and ready in the operating room at the exact moment the lungs arrive. Once donor lungs are retrieved, surgeons have approximately six hours for transplantation.
The miracles the surgeons have produced in St. Joseph's 187 transplant patients would never have occurred without the unwavering determination of Krushelniski who will literally go to the ends of the Earth to save a patient.
Krushelniski started her career in 1992 as a nurse in a heart and lung transplant intensive care unit, and briefly worked on the donor side before finding her true passion in 2001 as a lung transplant coordinator.
She came to St. Joseph's six years ago with only a tight knit team of lung transplant specialists and the dream of starting the Valley's only program. Having played an integral role in creating one of the busiest lung transplant programs in the nation, Krushelniski is now its main administrator, overseeing and educating a team of specialized lung transplant coordinators.
Krushelniski adds that St. Joseph's transplant team acts a family, "Once patients start down the transplant road, we explain that they have become a member of our family with their own set of responsibilities-like being prepared when we get a potential offer, as well as staying healthy and taking care of their new lungs."
She still keeps in touch with many of her patients, including Norm Lydiard, her sixth lung transplant patient at St. Joseph's who is now nearly six years post-transplant.
Brandi Krushelniski and transplant recipient Norm Lydiard are available for interviews. Please call (602) 406-3312 to schedule.
CONTACT: Sara Baird, (602) 406-3312