There’s nothing off limits when Tina Ray calls a prospective transplant recipient. She gets to know a lot of personal information really fast. Sometimes in the first few minutes of a phone call.
She may ask questions such as: “Do you urinate normally? Do you smoke marijuana?” It’s her job to learn as much about the patient’s health as possible to order the appropriate testing that will ultimately determine an organ match.
“I’m pretty much the gatekeeper for all that information. I find out their medical history, get them scheduled for testing, and eventually get them in to see our nephrologist, and meet with the transplant team,” said Ray. “I’m not just an advocate for the patient, but also for the organ. I want to make sure the patient has the means and ability to care for the transplant.”
With a patient load of 180, she spends a lot of time on the phone answering questions and calming nerves.
“Unfortunately, the organ wait list is four to seven years for a deceased organ, so I get to know the patient so well they are like family,” said Ray. “With some, I am the bossy sister, with others I’m a mom and with others I’m a neighbor.”
Ray says every time she picks up the phone, every time she has contact with a patient, she tries to demonstrate her compassion for the transplant process.
“She’s a people person,” said Anya Lauscher, a pre-transplant coordinator who works with Ray. “I learn a lot from listening to her talk to patients. She is really great at what she does.”
In her office, Ray shows off a custom-made card from a patient. The front pictures Ray with the transplant recipient. “I talked to her daily for six months,” said Ray. “We are dear friends now. I have gone to visit her and we still talk daily. Her kidney transplant was four years ago.”
With transplant, the calls can come at anytime – either the call from an anxious patient or Ray’s calls to tell the patient that an organ is available for transplant.
“I hate to call it a job because it’s more like a calling,” said Ray. “When you get to call someone and tell them there is an organ waiting for them, it’s just amazing.”
Here are three more facts about Ray:
- She has three college-aged children.
- She started her career as a cardiac nurse and was with her mother when she suffered a heart attack. Her mother is now 71 and is in good health.
- When she retires, she would like to own a bed and breakfast.
-- By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Banes via email at T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.