Emory Transplant Team

Organ Donation Hits Close to Home – A Thankful Mother’s Story

Organ Donation Hits Close to Home

D’Sean Bray, Heart Transplant Recipient

In December 2014, Renita Hylton, one of Emory Healthcare’s own, had to quickly familiarize herself with the subject of organ donation. She received the devastating news that her 17-year-old son, D’Sean Bray, was diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy that would require a lifesaving heart transplant. “I knew something was wrong. He was always very active, and then he began sleeping a lot. When he was admitted, his heart was only functioning at seven percent,” she recalls. D’Sean needed immediate open-heart surgery to save his life until a new heart would become available. He was quickly placed on the pediatric transplant list.

D’Sean was receiving care from the pediatric cardiology team at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston when the family received news that a heart was available. “I was in disbelief,” says Renita. “I was happy, but at the same time sad knowing how we were getting the heart.”

The donor was 14-year-old who lost his life in a traffic accident. The donor’s family made the selfless decision to have their son’s heart donated.

“We met the donor’s family a few months after the surgery, and we still keep in contact,” says Renita. “The family joined us for the 2016 Atlanta Heart Walk.”

“I saw an instant improvement in D’Sean immediately,” says his mom. “The swelling in his face, feet, and hands went down, and he had color back in his face.”

Where Is He Now?

D’Sean is now attending the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and speaks about the importance of organ donation at community outreach events for Egleston, the LifeLink Foundation, and his college. “I am so thankful he’s recovering and can be just a normal kid. Going through this has opened our eyes to the importance of promoting organ donation,” says his mom.

Transplantation is one of the most remarkable success stories in the history of medicine, but the need for organ donation is greater than ever before. More than 123,000 men, women, and children are on the national transplant list, with another person added every 10 minutes.

Each April, we celebrate National Donate Life Month to raise awareness about organ donation and honor the donors who have given the gift of life. Research shows that 95 percent of Americans are for being a donor, yet only 48 percent are registered. Those awaiting a lifesaving transplant need organs, tissue and bone marrow. These can all be transplanted – giving recipients (and their families) a second chance at life.

Emory Transplant Center is proud to play a part in transplantation – giving hope to thousands of people with organ failure and provides them and their families with active and renewed lives.

How You Can Help

Want to learn more about organ donation? Visit Donate Life Georgia to get the facts about organ donation, register to become a donor and update your donate profile.

Learn more about Emory’s Transplant Center, offering Georgia’s most comprehensive organ transplant program.

View Emory Transplant Center 

April is National Donate Life Month

Emory Transplant Center Commemorates Organ Donation Month

Donate Life Organ Donation Logo Transplantation is one of the most remarkable success stories in the history of medicine, but the need for organ donation is greater than ever before. More than 123,000 men, women and children are on the national transplant list, within another person added every 10 minutes.

Each April, we celebrate National Donate Life month to raise awareness around organ donation and honor the donors who have given the gift of life. Research shows that 95 percent of Americans are in favor of being a donor, yet only 48 percent are registered. Those awaiting a lifesaving transplant need organs, tissue and bone marrow. These can all be transplanted, giving recipients, and their families, a second chance at life.

Emory Transplant Center is proud to play a part in transplantation – giving hope to thousands of people with organ failure and provides them and their families with active and renewed lives.

Interested in becoming a donor but have questions?  The Emory Transplant Center along with Donate Life of Georgia has compiled a list of informative facts to help you with your decision to become an organ donor.

Organ Donation Facts

  • Your donation can save multiple recipient lives. Did you know one organ donor can save up to eight lives? Think of the impact you could make on numerous families.  After donation, many organ recipients return to a normal lifestyle. For some, an organ transplant means no longer having to be dependent on costly routine treatments to survive. It allows many recipients to return to a normal lifestyle with family, friends, work and activities.
  • Organ vs tissue donation. Organ donation is the process of recovering organs from a deceased person and transplanting them into others to save the lives of those in need. Organs that can be transplanted include the heart, liver, lungs, kidney, pancreas and intestine. Tissue donation is the process of recovering tissue form a deceased person for transplantation. Donated tissue includes heart valves, bone, skin, corneas/eyes and soft tissue.
  • Live donation of organs.  Called living donation, individuals can donate a kidney, portions of the liver, lung, pancreas and intestines, as well as bone marrow to organ recipients while they are alive. Your living donation can help a family member or friend. Even complete strangers often donate and save lives!
  • You will not be responsible for the cost of donation. Many individuals incorrectly believe that if they donate organs that they or their family will then need to fund the cost of the operation used to remove the organ. It is also illegal to buy or sell organs for transplantation in the United States.
  • Sharing hope out of tragedy. For the family of the deceased donor, organ donation can provide a sense of goodness after tragedy and loss. Donor families often take some consolation in knowing that their loved one is continuing to live on through another person.

Want to learn more about organ donation? Visit Donate Life Georgia to get the facts about organ donation, register to become a donor and update your donate profile. To learn more about Emory’s Transplant Center, offering Georgia’s most comprehensive organ transplant program, visit emoryhealthcare.org/transplant.

Get Involved!

Are you a recipient? A donor family? We’d love to share your journey! Please email us at: communications@emoryhealthcare.org.

Also, join us at the 4th Annual Run 4 Your Life 5K Run/Walk on Sunday, April 23 at Piedmont Park. All funds raised will help Donate Life Georgia carry out its mission.

Good Morning America Pays Tribute to a Transplant Recipient’s Wife

It all started with a Facebook post…Raleigh Callaway, a veteran Georgia police officer and patient of the Emory Transplant Center, needed a kidney transplant. Desperate to find a match as he entered the late stages of renal failure, he and his wife, Kristi Callaway, turned to social media to find a potential donor. Kristi posted a message on Facebook sharing Raleigh’s need for a kidney. The post resulted in more than 900 people contacting the Emory Transplant Center – one of whom was Chris Carroll, a health care consultant and grandfather from McKinney, Texas. He saw the Callaway family pictured on Facebook with their two children holding a sign that read, “Our Daddy Needs a Kidney.” Chris said he felt divinely led to call to see if he could become a donor. On Thursday, September 25, 2014, Raleigh received Chris’ kidney. Both recipient and donor are doing well.

But even after her husband found a kidney, Kristi Callaway continued her mission of supporting organ donations and helping to connect individuals in need of a kidney with donors from across the country. So far she has save 23 lives by connecting kidney donors to those in need. Good Morning America recognized Kristi for her extraordinary work.

Check out the full story and the video here.

 

National Kidney Registry Awards Emory Transplant Center Coordinator for Quick Actions

Dr. Nicole Turgeon (left) and Sharon Matthews (right)

Dr. Nicole Turgeon (left) and Sharon Matthews (right)

The National Kidney Registry (NKR) has awarded Sharon Mathews, Lead Coordinator of Emory’s Living Donor Kidney Transplant Program, with its Grace Under Pressure Award. The NKR’s medical board voted for Mathews and a transplant coordinator from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, to receive the Grace Under Pressure Awards for their careful maneuvers and quick actions that led to a series of successful kidney transplants last summer. The NKR presents this award to an individual or organization that goes beyond what is expected and takes extraordinary measures to accelerate the practice of paired donor kidney exchange, resulting in the facilitation of more successful transplants.

The series of events began in July 2015 when a Good Samaritan donor started the chain in Madison, Wisconsin. The donor wanted to altruistically donate her kidney sometime in a five-day window so that she could recover in time for her college classes to start in the fall. The NKR identified a four-way swap that included a 14-year-old kidney transplant candidate at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Doctors accepted the donor’s offer, Emory’s HLA lab completed physical crossmatching and the NKR finalized the swap logistics. All seemed ready to go.

A week before the scheduled surgeries, the paired donor in position 3 of the four-way swap decided against donating. The planned recipient of this kidney was an adult patient at Emory Transplant Center. So the centers quickly identified a “repair” option — the donor in position 2 could step in and donate a kidney to the position 3 candidate. Emory’s HLA lab performed a virtual crossmatch for the candidate. But then a few days before surgery, the candidate’s donor developed an elevated liver enzyme count and was ruled out. The centers identified a second repair option using virtual crossmatching and quickly solved this problem.

“Both of our centers [Emory and UW-Madison] worked hard to save the entire swap through the challenges that unfolded in the last several days before the scheduled transplant,” says Mathews.
Thanks to Mathews and her team’s hard work and the generosity of the altruistic donor in Madison, the swap began as planned, and the patient at Children’s received a living donor kidney. And at the end of the chain, the Emory waitlisted patient received a well-matched transplanted kidney as needed.

Mathews received the award on behalf of her team at the NKR’s Season of Miracles awards gala in New York City on May 4. “I dedicated my award to the entire Emory team that helped make these transplants successful, and I thanked my husband for his support,” says Mathews. “Living donor swaps/exchanges require tremendous coordination and expertise by our HLA lab, transplant surgeons, nephrologists, anesthesiologists, transplant clinic staff, bedside nurses, and O.R. staff. They all made it happen.”

Hidden Gems: Emory Transplant Faculty & Staff Spotlight

Emory Transplant Center would like to showcase our hidden gems – the faculty and staff that have made an impact in the field of transplantation. Rachel Patzer, PhD, MPH, is an epidemiologist researcher in Emory’s Division of Transplantation and the Emory Transplant Center. Her research focus has been on health disparities and access to solid organ transplant. She is currently the principal investigator of a major National Institutes of Minority Health and Health Disparities study, RaDIANT (Reducing Disparities in Access to Kidney Transplantation) Community Study in Georgia that we featured in a previous blog post.

Rachel’s work in transplantation is her passion. She has had family members that have been touched by transplant, and understands the power of organ donation and how it can save a life.

“I think I want my legacy to be just that I made some difference in peoples lives,” says Dr. Patzer. “The patients who are willing to donate a kidney to help save a life are truly amazing individuals – I think it is so inspirational.”

Watch this video to hear from Rachel and how working in the field transplantation affects her.

The Powerful Gift of Organ Donation – A Lung Transplant Recipient’s Story

More than 120,000 individuals are waiting for for a transplant. Alice Koone, an Emory lung transplant recipient was one of those people.According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), there are currently more than 120,000 individuals waiting for a transplant. One organ donor can save up to 8 lives, and sadly, 22 people die every day waiting for some type of transplant.

Alice Koone, an Emory lung transplant recipient was one of those individuals awaiting a life-saving transplant.

Alice was in desperate need for a double lung transplant due to severe complications with breathing. At a Talladega Superspeedway race in 2007, she remembers not being able to walk more than 20 feet without having to stop to rest because her lungs were so damaged.

In Jul 2007, Alice was place on oxygen, but her condition didn’t seem to be improving. On Sept. 13, 2007, three months after being placed on the lung transplant waiting list, she received a call that would change her life – she would receive a lung transplant that day with the Emory Transplant Center.

Neile Chesnut, an Emory heart transplant coordinator, said most people don’t understand how important it is to become an organ donor. Liver, heart, lungs, kidneys, pancreas and small intestine are among organs that can be donated.

Chesnut says one of the best parts of working with pre- and post-transplants patients includes getting to know the individuals as they wait, sometimes several months, for a transplant.

“I feel like they are my family,” said Chesnut.

A year after receiving her transplant at Emory University Hospital, Alice wanted to write a “thank you” note to her donor family, but she could not go through with it.

“How do you thank somebody for this?” she wondered.

But on her second transplant anniversary, she finally wrote that letter to the donor family. Alice, now 54, spends time with her baby grandson and volunteers as a mentor for the Georgia Transplant Foundation.

“I’m able to do a lot of the things I thought I would never be able to do again,” she said. “We are able to travel, camp, hike and just enjoy life. You are thankful for everyday that you get.”

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*Blog adapted from story written by Marisa Stout. Marisa is a senior at the University of Georgia majoring in public relations. Her passion for transplant stemmed from her grandfather’s need for a heart transplant. He received his life-saving transplant at Emory in 2004, and is doing well today.

Marisa says, “I wrote this piece because I feel as a college student writing a piece on organ donation, I can send a message about this important cause to my generation.” And of course, Marisa is an organ donor herself.

Emory University Hospital Transplant Nurses Receive National Recognition

daisy-250x250In honor of National Nurses Week, the Emory Transplant Center would like to recognize two Emory University Hospital transplant nurses who recently received national recognition.

Gem Comrie, a nurse on Emory University Hospital’s transplant unit (7G), has been awarded the DAISY Award, a national recognition program for nurses. Rommel Buenvenida, also a nurse on 7G, received a DAISY Award nomination. Their unit director, Tiffany Banks, recently commended them for their exemplary service to transplant patients. They both have earned credentials as certified clinical transplant nurses from the American Board for Transplant Certification.

“The DAISY Award is a national award bestowed upon extraordinary nurses who provide optimum care to the patients they serve,” says Banks. “Gem is a sensational transplant nurse who takes pride in her work and profession. I am extremely proud of both Gem and Rommel, since they represent the core of who we all are as Emory nurses.”

The DAISY Award — the acronym stands for Diseases Attacking the Immune SYstem Award — is a program started by the DAISY Foundation in 2000 by the family of Patrick Barnes who died at age 33 from complications of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), an autoimmune disease. The family, incredibly impressed by the exemplary nurses who cared for him, developed award programs to honor and celebrate direct-care nurses, nursing faculty and nursing students from across the globe. The DAISY Award programs partner with organizations to provide recognition of nurses’ clinical skills and compassion to patients and families. The programs are tailored to each hospital’s unique culture and values, providing resources to help implement the awards.

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Your Organ Donation Questions Answered: Takeaways from Our Live Chat

organ-donor260x200Thank you to everyone who joined us for Emory Transplant Center’s live web chat on the topic of organ donation. With April serving as Donate Life month, we wanted to raise awareness around organ donation and answer your specific questions. Lead Transplant Coordinator, Sharon Mathews, MS, RN, CPTC, answered questions about organ donation, including how many people are currently waiting for an organ, what organs can be donated, and who can donate. She also discussed Emory Transplant Center’s living donor and paired donor exchange programs.

Below are just a few highlights from the chat. If you missed this informative chat, check out the full list of questions and answers located on our chat transcript. You may also visit the Emory Transplant Center website for more information. And for more information on how to become an organ donor, visit donatelife.net.

Question: How long can an organ stay viable during transport?

Sharon Mathews: For solid organs, heart and lungs are viable for 4-6 hours, livers up to 12 hours, the pancreas is viable for 12-18 hours and kidneys remain viable up to 24- 30 hours on ice. The goal is to transplant the organs within 8 hours or less of being recovered.

Question: Do you have to be on kidney dialysis before you can be put on the wait list for a kidney?

Sharon Mathews: No, if you have been referred to a transplant center and are undergoing evaluation for transplant, you can have potential living donors call in on your behalf. The initial screening tests can be done at this point in the process. However, you will not become active on the UNOS wait list until your kidney function meets protocol for transplantation.

Question: If my blood type doesn’t match my recipient’s what are my options?

Sharon Mathews: At Emory we are involved with the National Kidney Registry (a paired donor exchange program). In a paired exchange, a donor will donate their kidney to another recipient in exchange for a compatible kidney for their loved one. This can occur on the same day. So while they didn’t walk away with your kidney, they received a kidney that was the best match donor possible.

Currently more than 115,000 men, women and children are awaiting a life-saving transplant. They are in need of organs, tissue, and bone marrow which can all be transplanted if donors were available, giving recipients a second chance at life. Perhaps the most important message from the live chat is the one on the importance of organ donation and how it can have a huge impact on people’s lives.

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Giving the Gift of Life: Former Marine Donates Kidney to National Guardsman

MarineGuardsmanPhotoThe Emory Transplant Center loves to share heartwarming stories that happen right here in our Center. As we celebrate Donate Life month, we would like to honor those who have graciously made the decision to give the gift life. Former Marine, Temple Jeffords, is one of those individuals. He made the decision to donate one of his kidneys to help out a fellow serviceman.

It all started with a plea for help via social media. Suffering with Stage 4 kidney disease, 28-year-old Dustin Brown, Army National Guardsman, relied on dialysis machines to rid his body of waste, salt and water that his failing kidneys could no longer do. Doctors told him a kidney transplant was needed.

Dustin connected with Kristi and Raleigh Callaway. Raleigh Callaway, a Greensboro, Georgia, police officer, received a new kidney in 2014 following a Facebook post publicly appealing for help.

Soon Brown, posing with his wife and five-year-old son, had a similar Facebook post on the Callaway’s page, desperately searching for a new kidney.

Former Marine, Temple Jeffords, saw the plea for help and contacted Kristi Callaway and the Emory Kidney Transplant Program. A few weeks later, 44-year-old Jeffords learned he was a match for Brown.

“I have never thought about donating a kidney to anyone, but when I saw another serviceman’s need for help, I wanted to help,” says Jeffords. “The testing and donating processes are simple.”

Living donor kidney transplants, such as this one, make the wait times shorter for critically-ill patients, while also providing the greatest chances for long-term success,” says Nicole Turgeon, MD, surgical director of the Paired Donor Kidney Exchange Program at Emory Transplant Center.

“I am so thankful for Temple,” said Brown, just days after his kidney transplant surgery. “Brothers in arms are always brothers, no matter what. He is a super hero in our family.”

Watch the story featured on ABC News here.

Watch the story featured on Fox News here.

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about kidney transplant and the Emory Living Donor Kidney Program 

Gifts from the Heart

event1National Heart Month would not be complete without Heart to Heart, Emory Transplant Center‘s annual fete for heart transplant recipients and candidates, which was on Feb. 20 at the Miller-Ward Alumni House. Sixty heart transplant recipients and eight patients waiting on the heart transplant list — all supported by their family members — celebrated life during the 27th annual Heart to Heart.

The celebrants were at Heart to Heart to show gratitude for their renewed lives made possible by their organ donor families. Each year, the event draws the newest heart transplant patients as well as those who have had their new heart for many years. Three recipients, Earnest Mitchell, Stephanie Harmon and Herbert Kuper were on hand to honor their organ donor families for their lifesaving gifts and meet up with many of their caregivers during the transplant process.

“I give honor and praise daily to my heart donor and his family,” says Mitchell, who was with his wife, Rhonda — newlyweds, really, since they married in 2014. “This date will always be bittersweet, because we understand that this time of celebration for us will always be a time of remembrance for them.”

Mitchell, a Stockbridge resident, is celebrating his one-and-a-half-year anniversary with his new heart. He is pictured above with transplant cardiologist, Rob Cole, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine. After being diagnosed with heart disease in 2006 and then congestive heart failure in 2009, Mitchell and his wife began investigating treatment options for his weak heart. Little did they know that a heart transplant would be his only option for survival.

event3Mitchell was admitted to Emory University Hospital’s coronary care unit (CCU) for constant monitoring and medication to keep his heart functioning while he waited for his new heart. After 139 days in the CCU, he learned a heart was available. He received his transplant on Aug. 15, 2014.

Stephanie Harmon, from Summerville, Ga., received her new heart in Dec. 2015. A surgical first assistant in a Floyd County hospital, Harmon developed breathing problems after an illness in Dec. 2013. An emergency room doctor diagnosed her with heart failure and she was sent by life-flight to Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital, where she spent the next two months hospitalized. She went home with an Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD), a surgically implanted, battery-operated, mechanical pump that sent blood coursing throughout her body.

Eighteen months later, on Dec. 19, 2015, Harmon received the call from the Emory Transplant Center that a heart was available. “I couldn’t believe it, I was in total shock and I couldn’t move,” says Harmon. “My husband instantly started packing our bags.”

Three month after receiving her new heart, Harmon is doing well. Although it is still too early for her to reach out to her donor family, she is very appreciative of the life-saving gift she received.

South African native turned Atlanta resident, Herbert Kuper, developed an abnormal heart rhythm after knee replacement surgery. Doctors determined he had cardiac amyloidosis, or stiff heart syndrome, where clumps of proteins called amyloids take the place of normal heart muscle.

event2Kuper was placed on the heart transplant list, and received his new heart on Feb. 16, 2015. One year later, he is doing well.

“I am so grateful for my heart donor and family,” he reports. “I am also very appreciative of the amazing doctors and nursing staff at Emory University Hospital and Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital that cared for me while I was so sick.”

According to Dr. Cole, “As a heart failure and heart transplant specialist, it is important to celebrate the new lives of our patients each year because of a precious gift they received. It also is important to honor those families who gave selflessly at a time of tragedy for them.”