Emory Transplant Team

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.

cta-learn-blue

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.

Flu Vaccination Proves to Reduce Rejection in Transplant Recipients

transplant_7-30-200x300Although we are currently in the throws of summer heat, schools will be starting back in the next few weeks and soon the Fall season will be upon us. With that begins flu season. The Emory Transplant Center has always encouraged our patients to get their flu shot early on in the season, and now a research study has proven it to be most effective in reducing rejection. A recent Emory study presented at the Emory Transplant Center shows that a flu shot in the first year post-transplant reduces rates of hospitalization for recipients of all organ types. The study also proved that vaccination reduces acute rejection rates among transplant recipients.

“We designed our study to compare the clinical outcomes between solid organ transplant recipients [lung, heart, kidney, and liver] at Emory University Hospital who receive flu vaccination with those who didn’t,” says Dr. G. Marshall Lyon III, Associate Professor of Medicine and Director of Transplant Infectious Diseases.

The investigators reviewed the charts of 586 recipients who received transplants from January 1, 2011 to September 1, 2012. They studied a cohort of patients who received flu vaccines during the first full flu season after their transplants and compared it to a cohort of non-vaccinated patients. The researchers collected the outcomes from each recipient for one year beginning with the start of the first full flu season – September 1st – after their transplants.

The study showed the recipients had an overall vaccination rate of 59.3%. The rate of hospitalization per patient year was lower in the vaccinated group, with 0.34 admissions per patient year for the vaccinated group and 0.51 admissions per patient year in the non-vaccinated group. When rejection episodes that were diagnosed on the date of vaccination were removed from the vaccinated group and attributed to the non-vaccinated group, there was a significant reduction in the rate per patient year, with a rejection rate of 0.13 for vaccinated patients and 0.22 non-vaccinated patients.

Learn more about the Emory Transplant Center.

Finding a Better Antifungal Agent for Lung Transplant Patients

Transplant_7-16Because human airways are open to airborne fungal spores and pathogens, lung transplant patients are especially susceptible to infections, a major cause of post-transplant disease and even death. A reliable means of preventing fungal infection in lung transplant patients is the drug posaconazole. Even though it serves well for preventing infection, the oral suspension has poor bioavailability, or absorption into the bloodstream, and patients need to have low gastric pH and high dietary fat intake for adequate systemic exposure.

In November 2013, the FDA approved a new formulation, a posaconazole extended-release tablet, which doctors at Emory Transplant Center began prescribing to patients because of its predictable absorption and improved systemic exposure.

“The purpose of the research study was to compare the oral suspension with the extended-release tablets and determine the likelihood of achieving therapeutic posaconazole levels, which provides the optimal benefit for patients,” says Michael Hurtik, clinical pharmacist for the heart and lung transplant programs, who was the first author on the study. He and the team’s pulmonologists, including Emory Lung Transplant Program medical director, Dr. David Neujahr, looked at data from a cohort of Emory Transplant Center patients who received single or bilateral lung transplantation between January 2013 and October 2014, and were treated for four months post-transplant with nebulized amphotericin and posaconazole oral suspension or the extended-release tablets.

The results showed that the use of the new posaconazole extended-release tablets resulted in therapeutic blood levels for fungal prophylaxis more often (87% of patients) than the oral suspension formulation (39%). The lung transplant patients studied also tolerated the tablets well and no one needed a dose reduction or discontinuation of the medication. This study was successful in finding a better antifungal agent for our lung transplant patients that also provides the most optimal health benefit.

Learn more about the Emory Transplant Center.

Emory Transplant Center Giving Back

Swing Easy Transplant Charity Check

(From left to right) Kirk Franz, seen here with two of his daughters, Dr. Tom Pearson, Executive Director, Emory Transplant Center and Chris Dimotta, Emory Transplant Center Administrator.

Every year, National Donate Life Month at Emory is a festive time to honor the donors and donor families who make renewed lives through transplantation possible. This past April was no exception as Emory Transplant Center physicians and staff participated in community events to raise money for two worthy causes – the Georgia Transplant Foundation and Donate Life of Georgia. Both organizations play a major role in helping to support transplant recipients in Georgia.

The Swing Easy Hit Hard golf tournament, held on April 16th at Windermere Country Club, has become an annual Emory tradition. The event is organized and hosted by Emory liver transplant recipient Kirk Franz. Thankful for his liver transplant, Kirk wanted to give back in some way and create awareness about the importance of organ donation. The annual event raises funds for the Georgia Transplant Foundation and Emory Transplant Center. This year’s event raised a total of $14,000 — a stunning increase over the five years the event has been organized by the Franz family.

Emory Transplant Center staff also participated in the second annual Donate Life of Georgia Run 4 Your Life 5K walk/run on April 18th. The event attracted more than 132 runners and transplant enthusiasts.

Emory Transplant 5K

Emory Transplant Center 5K Team

“It was a beautiful and festive day on the Silver Comet Trail,” says Dawn Fletcher, Emory Transplant Center employee and one of the race’s organizers. “We received approximately $6,100 in donations for Donate Life Georgia’s educational programs.” She encouraged the Emory team to dress in blue and green — official Donate Life colors — to get into the spirit.

Both events not only not only raised money for these two worthy causes but also promoted team unity among the Emory Transplant Center family – team they are proud to be a part of.

Emory Transplant Center Receives Grant to Help Increase Access to Living Donor Kidney Transplants

Living Kidney Donor Transp;lantThe Carlos and Marguerite Mason Trust has awarded the Emory Transplant Center a $500,000 grant over two years that will go a long way toward saving lives and increasing access to the benefits of living donor kidney transplants among Georgians. The grant will help Emory Transplant Center researchers design, implement and evaluate new recruitment and retention tools in partnership with Tonic Health, a leading medical data collection system. The initiative’s goals are to help living donor candidates navigate the donation process and to be able to easily track them through the entire transplant process.

“Due to enhanced awareness in the community, an increase in accessibility and various educational initiatives there are more end-stage renal disease [ESRD] patients in Georgia coming forward as potential candidates for transplantation,” says Dr. Thomas Pearson, executive director of the ETC. “Both the number of available deceased donor organs and living donor kidneys for ESRD patients have plateaued in the last three or four years, making the need to explore new techniques to increase the donor pool more urgent than ever.”

Because of this, the Emory Transplant Center has started a pilot project to capture patient questionnaires and intake notes electronically to help speed the evaluation process. The new system will flag patients who could be appropriate candidates for kidney donation based on criteria developed by our researchers and will help reduce the time nurse coordinators need to review records. It will be much more patient friendly and efficient than current phone call screening processes. The new technology will be one of the most innovative electronic screening systems for facilitating living donor kidney transplantation available anywhere in the country.

With the help of the Mason Trust grant, the Emory Transplant Center hopes to increase the number of kidney transplant evaluations by at least 30%, and decrease the time from referral to donation by 20%.

According to Dr. Pearson, “We are truly grateful for the dedication of the Carlos and Marguerite Mason Trust to help ESRD patients and their families learn about the benefits of transplantation, assist them in the transplant process, help them find living donor matches, and enable our faculty and staff to monitor their progress.”

Celebrating Emory Transplant Center’s Social Workers

transplant-social-worker-supportIn March, we celebrated Emory Transplant Center social workers as we commemorated National Social Work Month. Information fairs were held to educate patients and their families about the role social workers play in the transplant process, and resources that can help our special patient population. The theme for the month was “Social Work Paves the Way for Change,” which was a good way to describe exactly what our 16 transplant social workers do every day.

ETC social workers help make positive changes in individual patients throughout the transplant process as well as for the transplant community as a whole. They assess and address the emotional, psychosocial, adjustment, and resource needs of patients and caregivers throughout the transplant journey. Social workers serve as a voice to speak up for the best interests of transplant patients and their families. They evaluate available social support and provide education to patients and families. Social workers are instrumental in linking patients with community resources to meet their financial, medication access, insurance, legal, and/or mental health needs. In addition, they are available to provide supportive counseling to transplant recipients and family members.

All Emory Transplant Center social workers have master-level degrees and many have specialized training and certifications that meet specific educational, licensing and experience requirements from national professional organizations. Our social workers are an essential part of the transplant team and every patient’s transplant process. Please join us in thanking our transplant social workers for the work they do every day.

Takeaways from Dr. Turgeon’s Organ Donation and Paired Donor Exchange Live Chat

organ donation monthThank you to everyone who joined us during National Donate Life Month for the live web chat hosted by Emory Transplant Center surgeon, Dr. Nicole Turgeon. Dr. Turgeon answered questions about organ donation, including paired donor exchange – what it is, how it works and how paired donor exchange is helping patients get a second chance at life.

Perhaps the most important message from Dr. Turgeon was one on the importance of organ donation and how it can have a huge impact on people’s lives.

We were thrilled with the number of people who registered and were able to participate in the chat. The response was so great that we had a few questions we were not able to answer so we have answered them below for your reference.

If you missed this informative chat, be sure to 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: My grandmother is on dialysis and she is 73. Can she be placed on the waitlist for transplant? 

turgeon-nicoleDr. Turgeon: Before anyone can be placed on the wait list for organ transplantation, he/she will need to be evaluated by a transplant physician to determine if he/she meets medical criteria for transplant, e.g. is the patient healthy and strong enough for transplant. There are also criteria around patient support care as well as financial requirements. We are happy to evaluate your grandmother. To schedule an appointment for evaluation, call 1-855-EMORYTX (366-7989). It is a toll free number.

Question: Will kidney donation affect pregnancy?

turgeon-nicoleDr. Turgeon: Women who donate a kidney can become pregnant after donation and deliver healthy babies. But we do recommend waiting 1 year after donation to become pregnant in order to heal from surgery and for your kidney function to be stable.

 

 

Question: What is the kidney donor waiting list exchange?

turgeon-nicoleDr. Turgeon: If a paired exchange cannot be found, living donors in certain areas of the country may be eligible for living kidney donor list exchange. In this type of exchange, a kidney donor who is not compatible with their intended recipient offers to donate to a stranger on the waiting list. In return, the intended recipient advances on the waiting list for a deceased donor kidney. This type of living donation is also referred to living donor/deceased exchange.

 

If you missed this informative chat with Dr. Turgeon, be sure to check out the full list of questions and answers on the chat transcript.

If you have any questions for the doctor, do not hesitate to leave a comment in our comments area below.