Emory Transplant Team

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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Belatacept Provides Better Kidney Survival Rates than Current Standard of Care

transplant drugA study of kidney transplant recipients has shown for the first time that the drug belatacept (Nulojix), which controls the immune system and prevents graft rejection, has a better record of patient and organ survival than a calcineurin inhibitor, the current standard of care.

Patients who have undergone kidney transplant are required to take medications to prevent their immune systems from rejecting their new organs. A calcineurin inhibitor (CNIs) is generally used for post kidney transplant patients, but long-term use can damage transplanted kidneys and may lead to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Belatacept acts as a “co-stimulation blocker,” inhibiting one of two signals the T cells need to trigger an immune response. And unlike the currently used CNIs, it is not toxic to the kidney. In fact, it helps preserve the function of the kidney over the long term and is more effective in suppressing antibodies against the kidney, which are important causes of organ loss.

Emory University School of Medicine Dean and kidney and pancreas transplant surgeon, Dr. Christian Larsen, played a key role in developing belatacept, together with Emory Transplant Center Executive Director and Livingston Professor of Surgery, Dr. Thomas Pearson. Belatacept was approved by the FDA in 2011 and is produced by Bristol Myers Squibb.

The study, called BENEFIT (Belatacept Evaluation of Nephroprotection and Efficacy as First-line Immunosuppression Trial), was sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb and began in 2006. FDA approval of belatacept in 2011 was partly based on the first three years of results. Results from the worldwide study, led by Dr. Larsen and University of California San Francisco kidney transplant surgeon, Dr. Flavio Vincenti, were published in the Jan. 28 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The seven-year, multi-center study showed that kidney transplant recipients taking belatacept experienced a rate of mortality and graft loss significantly lower than patients taking a CNI-based regimen. The risk of death or loss of the transplanted kidney after seven years was 12.7 percent for belatacept, compared to 21.7 percent for cyclosporine A.
“While the best uses of belatacept still need additional definition, these results indicate that using belatacept as standard of care has the potential to improve long-term outcomes that matter to patients,” says Dr. Larsen.

Belatacept is given by infusion monthly at a doctor’s office, in contrast to CNIs, which are taken in daily pills at home. Many U.S. insurance companies now cover belatacept as medically necessary for kidney transplant patients.

Happy Holidays from the Emory Transplant Center

transplant-ribbonNo matter what your religious beliefs or cultural background, the holidays are a time to reflect on our extraordinary blessings and appreciate the love in our lives as we spend time with family and friends. The Emory Transplant Center has so much to be grateful for this season: our skilled faculty and staff, the excellence of our world-class transplant facilities, the satisfaction of helping our transplant patients, and most importantly, our donor families who have given the gift of life.

Without a doubt the Emory Transplant Center is one of the busiest transplant centers in the country, offering hundreds of patients in this area a chance at renewed lives. This only occurs through the benefits of organ transplantation each year. Without the selfless acts of kindness from donors and donor families, we wouldn’t have the wonderful stories of hope that we have every day. Please take a moment from your busy schedules this holiday season to salute these kind gifts.

Make your wishes known to your family and sign a donor card to become an organ donor.

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Fox 5 Atlanta Health Reporter Gives the Gift of Life

fox5 atlantaFox 5 Atlanta’s health reporter, Beth Galvin, started a chain of her own this past June when she donated her kidney at Emory Transplant Center for kidney transplant. In her two decades as a TV reporter, she saw many patients with end-stage renal disease on dialysis, and she wanted to help. She also was inspired by a story she covered in 2013 on Fox 5 about Chamblee Assistant Police Chief Mike Beller, a father of five who donated his kidney at Emory University Hospital (EUH). Galvin took a few weeks off from work and donated her own kidney at EUH last summer. Dr. Nicole Turgeon, Surgical Director of the Paired Donor Exchange Program, was her surgeon.

Galvin told her story at the October 24th Atlanta Trends in Transplant conference, hosted by Georgia Transplant Foundation. “I never expected the donor journey to be so emotional and spiritual,” she wrote on her Facebook page before her speaking engagement. “I began the process because I felt my inner compass was pointing me in this direction. Then, I stuck with it because I kept seeing signs I was on the right path.”

Galvin’s donated kidney was flown to the University of California at Los Angeles, where it transformed the life of a 41-year-old man on the waitlist there. He is a married father of two children and a volunteer baseball and softball coach. This was his second kidney transplant, which has saved him from the rigors of 4 a.m. dialysis before going to work. Galvin was one of six donors in a chain facilitated by the National Kidney Registry that ended up with six recipients who received new kidneys across the country.

Read Galvin’s first-person account in the fall issue of Emory Medicine magazine. To watch her story on Fox 5, click here.

Learn more about the Emory Transplant Center’s living donor program.

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The True Meaning of Thanksgiving

In the true spirit of giving, watch this heartwarming story of how an Emory Transplant Center patient, Bret Reiff, received a kidney from a 21 year-old stranger, Carley Teat.

“She is truly an angel in my heart. That’s all I got to say,” says Reiff.

As we reflect on this Thanksgiving holiday and of all that we are thankful for, let’s remember those who have given the generous donation of life through organ transplantation.

To learn more about living donor kidney transplantation, and the Emory Transplant Center’s Kidney Transplant program, visit emoryhealthcare.org/transplant-kidney.

Emory Living Donor Kidney Program Meets Transplant Goal

Living Kidney Donor Transp;lantThe Emory Transplant Center’s Living Donor Kidney Program set a lofty goal to perform 100 adult and pediatric transplants in fiscal year 2015 (9/1/14–‐8/31/15). And we are proud to announce that they achieved their goal.

By July 31st of this year, the Living Donor Kidney Program had just about met expectations, with 85 successful living donor kidney transplants performed at Emory University Hospital, and 12 at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston Hospital. The 100th transplant was less than a week later on August 6, 2015. By the end of August, the Program performed a total of 112 transplants. This total included 23 paired donor transplants that had donors matched by the National Kidney Registry in FY15.

Motivated by the challenge to transplant 100 patients in FY15, the team aspired even higher this fiscal year and is now projecting 100 adult and 15 pediatric transplants in FY16. Emory has a vibrant living donor program, thanks to the possibilities offered by widening the potential donor pool and making paired donor matches through the National Kidney Registry (NKR).

“I have to note that we had six ‘non‐designated donors’ from Emory who started ‘chains’ or ‘swaps’ in the NKR,” reports Sharon Mathews, lead transplant coordinator, Living Donor Kidney Program. “Through the selfless donation of these altruistic donors, 25 patients received kidney transplants around the U.S.”

According to Mathews, “Living donation can provide end-stage renal disease [ESRD] patients with a better chance of finding a compatible match and improve their outcomes and quality of life than a deceased donor match. Living donation, especially when facilitated by the NKR, a national paired donor exchange program, can speed the process to find compatible donors for patients and reduce wait times.”

Emory has been a member of the National Kidney Registry’s exchange since 2011 and is the second largest paired donor program in the country, matching a total of 29 paired donor transplants over the last 12 months. The 112 living donor transplants in FY15 is a 35% increase over last year, which had 83 adult and pediatric transplants in FY14.

“I really appreciate how hard the kidney team worked to make this happen,” remarked Dr. Nicole Turgeon, surgical director of the living donor program. “Our patients truly benefit from your teamwork.”

Great job, Living Donor Kidney Program team!

Emory Liver Transplant Program Appoints New Surgical and Medical Directors

Dr. Ram Subramanian

Dr. Ram Subramanian

Dr. Joseph Magliocca

Dr. Joseph Magliocca

There have been some exciting changes happening at the Emory Transplant Center – specifically within the Emory Liver Transplant Program. Just a little over six months ago, Dr. Joseph (Joe) Magliocca was appointed Surgical Director of the Liver Transplant Program. Dr. Magliocca joined Emory four years ago from Shands Hospital at the University of Florida. His research interests include liver preservation and perfusion with a goal of increasing the number of livers available for transplantation. He serves as an associate editor of the American Journal of Transplantation, the world’s most widely read peer-reviewed publication for transplant professionals. In addition, the American Society of Transplant Surgeons (ASTS) recently appointed him to serve on the PROACTOR Task Force (PROviding better ACcess To ORgans) to investigate ways to increase access to transplantation.

Meanwhile, Dr. James Spivey has stepped down as Medical Director of the Liver Transplant Program to serve as vice chair for clinical affairs in the department of medicine. Dr. Spivey will continue work as a transplant hepatologist, and provide both administrative guidance and clinical expertise at the Emory Transplant Center. In his new role, Dr. Spivey will work closely with chair Dr. David Stephens, Emory Medicine’s senior departmental administrative leadership and the division directors on strategic initiatives and will manage clinical faculty issues.

As a result of Dr. Spivey’s new role, we are proud to announce that Dr. Ram Subramanian has been appointed new Medical Director of the Liver Transplant Program. He has a dual role as both a transplant hepatologist and an intensivist. He began his career at Emory in 2007 and currently is the physician liaison for the abdominal transplant midlevel provider group. His clinical interests include inpatient care before and after liver transplantation, and his research is focused on critical care issues related to hepatic failure and liver transplantation.

While we have come a long way over the past decade, the Emory Liver Transplant Program continues to take steps to improve outcomes for patients, increase the donor pool, develop better surgical and medical techniques that improve quality of life, and create policies and procedures that increase productivity and efficiency in our program. We look forward to guidance under our new leadership.