Emory Transplant Team

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.”

Giving the Gift of Live: Understanding Organ Donation Live Chat- April 12, 2016

organ-donor260x200April serves as National Donate Life month – raising awareness around organ donation and celebrating those who have given the precious gift of life to another. 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. Understandably, potential donors may have reservations about organ donation.

To get the facts and learn more about organ donation, join Sharon Mathews, MS, RN, CPTC, of the Emory Transplant Center for a live chat on Tuesday, April 12th from Noon – 1PM. She will answer all of your questions about organ donation, including how many people are currently waiting for an organ, what organs can be donated, and who can donate. She will also discuss Emory Transplant Center’s living donor and paired donor exchange programs.

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Improving Survival Rates for Liver Cancer Patients

250x250liverEmory is nationally renowned for using a multidisciplinary approach to treat cancer. But many may not know there is a multidisciplinary team right here at the Emory Transplant Center with the mission of improving survival rates for liver cancer. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a form of liver cancer. It accounts for most liver cancers and is among the fastest rising cancers in the U.S. According to the National Cancer Institute, liver cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide and the seventh leading cause of cancer deaths in this country. For patients with early-stage primary HCC, liver transplantation may be their best chance of survival.

“Data here [at the Emory Transplant Center] and at other major academic transplant centers are showing that the five-year survival rate for patients with early-stage HCC and cirrhosis who receive a liver transplant is 75%, but only about 25-30% without a transplant”, says Dr. Anjana Pillai, a transplant hepatologist and the Medical Director of the Liver Tumor Clinic at Emory University Hospital.

Emory opened the multidisciplinary Liver Tumor Clinic, the only program of its kind in the state, in May 2013. It consists of a team of transplant hepatologists, liver transplant surgeons, interventional radiologists, midlevel professionals, palliative oncologists, medical oncologists and others who help personalize treatments depending on patients’ individual needs. Emory Transplant Center hepatologists serve as care coordinators for liver cancer/tumor patients. The reason transplant hepatologists are well suited to coordinate care for this population is they treat on a daily basis patients with chronic liver disease, liver failure and those requiring liver transplants.

“It’s a great group of people — the team takes each case step-by-step and determines the course that is best for each patient and family,” remarks Dr. Pillai.

It is better to treat patients with early-stage HCC with transplantation. According to OPTN/UNOS statistics, about 1,300 liver transplants were performed for liver cancer patients in the U.S. in 2012.

According to Dr. Thomas Pearson, Emory Transplant Center Executive Director, “The liver transplant program exemplifies multidisciplinary team management for this growing patient population, and their efforts are showing promising results. According to transplant center reports released by the SRTR [Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients] in June and December 2015, the Emory liver transplant program’s one-month, one-year and three-year patient and graft survival rates are the highest they have ever been since SRTR began publishing data in November 2001 [cohort: 7/1/1995-6/30/1999]. I’m really proud of how far the team has come, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for a liver cancer patient population that is managed by our multidisciplinary team of transplant hepatologists and surgeons, interventional radiologists, medical oncologists, palliative oncologists, and advanced practice providers.”

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