Events

Understanding Organ Donation: Deciding to Give the Gift of Life

organ donation monthApril 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. The Emory Transplant Center has compiled a list of pros and cons to help you with your decision to become an organ donor. Of note, the cons referenced below may in fact not be cons at all, but rather based on misconceptions.

Pros:

  • ONE organ donor can save up to EIGHT lives. With more than 115,000 men, women and children awaiting organ transplant in the U.S., by registering to become an organ donor you can help save lives.
  • For the transplant recipient, it is a second chance at life. 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.
  • For the family of the deceased donor, they feel a sense of goodness that came from a tragedy – that if the organs are transplanted into a young, deserving person, then their loss was not in vain. Donor families take some consolation in knowing that some part of their loved one continues in life.
  • Living Donation – It is possible to donate organs while you are still alive. One can donate a kidney, portions of the liver, lung, pancreas and intestines, as well as bone marrow, and go on to live healthy lives. Most often it is a relative or a close friend who donates, but there are others who choose to donate to a complete stranger.

Cons (Misconceptions):

  • Families might be confused by the fact that donor bodies are often kept on life support while the tissues are removed. Surgeons do not remove any tissues unless the person is brain dead, but they sometimes put the body on a ventilator to keep the heart pumping fresh blood into the tissues to keep them alive long enough to harvest. This is not the same as life, but there is a moment when the ventilator is removed and the heart stops.
  • 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. This is not the case as costs actually fall to the recipient.
  • Another “con” might be that the donor does not usually get to choose who the organs go to, and perhaps an organ will go to someone of a different faith, political viewpoint or temperament than the donor. The donor has to believe that all life is sacred and that anyone who receives the “ultimate gift” of a donor organ will be grateful and be imbued with a sense of gratitude and a desire to pay it forward.

To learn more about organ donation, join Dr. Nicole Turgeon of the Emory Transplant Center for a live chat on Tuesday, April 28th 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 paired donor exchange – what it is, how it works and how paired donor exchange is helping patients get a second chance at life. Register for the chat here.
To become a donor and for more information visit Donate Life of Georgia.

Georgia Transplant Foundation Gala Provides Assistance to Our Patients

Raleigh Callaway

Raleigh Callaway

Nearly 25 years ago, Tom Glavine’s Spring Training started as a small fundraiser for Georgia Transplant Foundation. In its first year it raised only $17,000 but in 2014 it brought in more than $300,000.

This year, on February 7th, the Spring Training event was the year’s most productive transplant fundraiser, netting more than a quarter million dollars for Georgia Transplant Foundation (GTF) programs that assist many of our patients. More than 1,000 people from the transplant community were on hand for the event, which was held this year at the newly renovated Delta Flight Museum near Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Bill Backus, a heart transplant recipient from Emory and president of GTF’s board of directors, served as master of ceremonies. In fact, at least 20 Emory transplant recipients were there, including Raleigh Callaway, the Greensboro, Georgia policeman who received a living donor kidney transplant last fall.

“Last year, GTF provided financial assistance grants to nearly 400 of Emory’s transplant recipients and candidates,” reports Cheryl Belair, GTF director of development and community relations. “In 2014, GTF provided more than $1.2 million in financial assistance to Georgia’s transplant population.” Over the years, the gala has raised $6.2 million for the GTF, directly impacting the lives of the transplant patients the organization serves.

This year was retired Braves pitcher Tom Glavine’s 23rd annual Spring Training event. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014.

transplant recipients

Transplant recipients gather for a picture at the Miller Ward Alumni House during the Annual Heart to Heart Celebration for transplant recipients and their guests.

Heart to Heart – Celebrating Our Heart Transplant Patients

Harry WuestEach year, Emory heart transplant recipients, their families and our staff and faculty look forward to Heart to Heart, a celebration of renewed lives through heart transplantation and the gift of organ donation. This year, heart transplant recipients from both Emory University Hospital and Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital attended the event on Saturday, February 14th, at the Miller-Ward Alumni House. The Valentine’s Day event was a great success with nearly 200 guests attending.

“We always enjoy seeing the smiling faces of our heart transplant recipients and their families, especially on Valentine’s Day, a holiday celebrating the heart” says Neile Chesnut, Manager of the Emory Heart Transplant Program. “The celebration affirms how important our work is. We love seeing so many recipients doing well and back to their normal lives.”

One of the event’s highlights was getting reacquainted with Harry Wuest, who had the “oldest” heart. In May, Harry will celebrate the 30th anniversary of his heart transplant. Harry received a new heart on May 24, 1985 and was the third patient to receive a heart transplant at Emory University Hospital. At the time, his heart was weakened from cardiomyopathy, which he suffered with for 12 years. He was unable to work and in such bad shape, he spent a month hospitalized in the cardiac care unit prior to his transplant.

With his new heart, this lively 70-year-old is in good health. Harry spends time with his 10 grandchildren, works full-time as a CPA at Bach, James, Mansour & Company in Duluth, and plays a mean game of golf. (“I feed the fish,” he says.)

Harry’s happy story is one of many told time and time again among the recipients at Heart to Heart. It is an honor to know that we, the Emory Transplant Center, might have had a small part to play in the lives of the people there, recipients whose lives were forever changed by the miracle of donation and heart transplantation.

The Most Precious Gift – the Gift of Life

As a reminder during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, please take a moment to reflect on those who have given the most precious of gifts – the gift of life.

At Emory, each time a patient or their family makes the generous decision to donate his or her organs; a Donor Flag is raised in their honor. The family is then presented with a replica flag as a memento of this most precious gift.

“As the Donate Life flag is raised, what that means to me is it honors those who have graciously made the decision to give life. And it also allows people hope and a second chance with their renewed and active life”, says Kimberly Simpson-Dailey.

In this video, Kimberly Simpson-Dailey remembers her son, Anthony, whose organs were donated when a sudden and rare illness took his life. She reflects on this with a mix of pride and grief. May we remember all of our loved ones this holiday season, honoring their life and the life they have passed on to others.

Emory Transplant Center Patients Represent Georgia in the Transplant Games of America

Transplant Games of AmericaThe competition was fierce this summer in the muggy Texas heat as Team Georgia participated in and watched athletic competitions at the Transplant Games of America at Rice University in Houston.

The team had 27 athletes representing six transplant centers from Georgia as well as 32 sports fans cheering on the athletes. The team had three donor family members, four living donors, 19 organ transplant recipients, and one cornea recipient who all brought home a total of 48 medals. Co-captains Joe Stott (heart recipient, Emory) and Sherrell Gay (heart and heart/kidney recipient, Emory) led the delegation.

We are so proud of our Emory Transplant Center athletes that we just couldn’t resist listing their names.

Here were their accomplishments:

Heart Transplant

  • Doug Austin — doubles golf (silver) and singles golf
  • Tim Lamberg — singles golf (gold), doubles golf (silver) and 5K run/walk
  • Joe Stott — singles bowling (bronze), 5K and doubles bowling
  • Richard Walker — mixed doubles tennis (gold), singles tennis, table tennis, and 5K
  • Malia Veator — 5K (gold), 1500m (gold), 100m (silver), 800m (silver), and mixed doubles tennis (gold)

Heart/Kidney

  • Sherrell Gay — cornhole game, table tennis and 5K

Kidney

  • Kevin Schneider (living donor) — singles golf (gold) and trivia games

Liver Transplant

  • Sharon Jean Cyprien — 400m (gold), 200m (gold) and 100m (silver)

Lung Transplant

  • Keith Harris — 5K and singles golf

“We feel our supporters/fans are so important to our wellbeing,” reports Gay, “so I have to mention we had two mascots. Tim Lamburg’s daughter dressed as ‘Peachy’ and Joe Stott’s 84-year-old mother-in-law was ‘Mrs. Peanut.'”

Way to go, Team Georgia!

The Gift of Organ Donation – April is Donate Life Month

donate-lifeFor many, April signifies the start of spring with the first signs of sunnier days, bluer skies and growing flowers. But for transplant patients, their families and donors, April symbolizes another kind of rebirth – the journey of organ transplantation and the generous gifts of organ donors.

Started in 2003 and celebrated every April, National Donate Life Month aims to highlight the growing need for organ and tissue donations and provide a positive reminder for people to sign up to become donors. As we celebrate Donate Life Month, we’d like to take a look back at some of our amazing stories of donation and transplantation. None of these stories would have been possible without organ donation:

If you’re interested in registering to become a donor, it’s simple. Just visit http://donatelife.net/register-now/.

Related Resources:

Emory Transplant Center

100,000 People are Waiting for a Kidney. Learn More About Emory’s Paired Donor Exchange Program

Paired Donor Exchange ProgramDid you know that there are nearly 100,000 people on the kidney transplant waiting list? With the average wait time for a kidney now at four years, patients are often eager to seek other options to waiting on a deceased donor kidney so that they can get back to living a healthy life. Fortunately, with today’s medical advances, a living or a deceased person can donate a kidney.

The Emory Transplant Center launched its Kidney Paired Donor Exchange Program in 2010 and has been participating in the National Kidney Registry since 2012. Join Nicole Turgeon, MD, associate professor of surgery, Emory University School of Medicine and surgical director of the Paired Donor Exchange Program on April 8 for an online live chat to learn how paired donor exchange works, what it takes to become a donor and how paired donor exchange is helping patients dramatically improve their quality of life.

Chat Sign Up

10 Years and Still Diabetes Free – Islet Cell Transplant Patients Celebrate Anniversary of Life-Changing Procedure

islet-trans-patients“I feel free. I feel normal.” That’s what Emory Transplant Center patient Laura Cochran says of her life since having a pancreatic islet cell transplant to treat her brittle Type 1 diabetes.

Last week, Cochran, along with the Emory Transplant Center team and fellow patient Rob Allen, gathered to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of their participation in a clinical trial for their severe Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas ceases to produce insulin, a hormone that allows people to get energy from food. Type 1 diabetics must take insulin every day to live.

Both Cochran and Allen were diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as young adults. Allen’s diabetes was controlled with insulin injections for about 10 years until his episodes of low blood sugar became more frequent and more severe. As for Cochran, as her diabetes progressed, she developed hypoglycemia unawareness, where her blood sugar would drop so low so quickly, that she didn’t recognize how low her sugars were. She often became dazed during these episodes and had to be watched at all times. While both benefitted some from insulin pumps, they still needed more relief. Fortunately, they were candidates for a clinical trial at Emory where donor pancreatic islet cells were transplanted to restore insulin production in people with Type 1 diabetes.

Cochran and Allen each received two islet cell transplants from two different organ donors, several months apart. After the first transplant, they both still needed small amounts of insulin injections. After the second transplant, neither Cochran nor Allen needed insulin injections. Both have been insulin free since 2004.

“We transplanted just two teaspoons of islet cells into these patients 10 years ago, and they no longer need insulin injections,” says Christian Larsen, MD, DPhil, professor of surgery in the Division of Transplantation at Emory, and dean of Emory University School of Medicine. “This has been a miraculous transformation.”

Researchers are awaiting FDA approval of islet cell transplants so that the surgery will no longer be experimental. Once approval is obtained, surgeons can perform these transplants on patients who meet the criteria.

“The best part about the islet cell transplants is not having to worry daily about my blood glucose levels getting out of control,” says Allen. “It has been an amazing thing.”

Related Resources

Emory Islet Transplant Program
Islet Transplant For Type 1 Diabetes? Julie Allred’s Story

Mother Daughter Team Kicks Off Six-Way Kidney Swap

kidney-swapWhen Mother’s Day rolls around this year, Cindy Skrine and her daughter, also named Cindy, will have a lot to celebrate. Having lived with kidney disease for many years, the elder Cindy needed a kidney transplant. Her daughter was tested as a donor, but ultimately was not a match for her mother. She was, however, a match for someone in California. With the help of Emory’s Kidney Paired Donor Exchange program, thus began a six-way kidney swap that stretched from Georgia to California to Tennessee and then back to Georgia.

“Emory began its Kidney Paired Donor Exchange Program in 2010, and we have been participating in the National Kidney Registry since 2012,” says Nicole Turgeon, MD, associate professor of surgery, Emory University School of Medicine and surgical director of the Paired Donor Exchange Program. “Paired donor exchange gives patients an opportunity to receive a living donor kidney transplant from a loved one or friend, despite incompatible blood types and positive crossmatches. In paired donation, a donor and recipient are matched with another incompatible donor and recipient pair, and the kidneys are exchanged between the pairs.

According to Dr. Turgeon, there are currently more than 100,000 people on the kidney transplant waiting list. The discrepancy between the number of organs available and the number of people on the waiting list continues to grow. The Emory Transplant Center is the state’s largest transplant center performing the highest volume of kidney transplants in Georgia.

To learn more about the Skrine’s story, check out the video below:

Visit the Emory Kidney Transplant Program website for more information on the Emory Paired Donor Exchange program.

Celebrating the Gift of Life in the New Year

Donate Life New Year's FloatWhile many people were recovering from New Year’s Eve parties and setting their resolutions for 2014, Emory transplant recipients Amy Tippins and Julie Allred were celebrating life on a much grander scale on New Year’s Day.

Tippins and Allred were two of 30 transplant recipients nationwide who rode on the Donate Life float in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., which preceded the Rose Bowl. The float, which featured illuminating lanterns, was called “Light Up the World,” and sought to bring awareness to organ and tissue donation.

Tippins received a liver transplant in 1993 at Emory University Hospital after being diagnosed as a teenager with hepatic adenoma, a rare benign tumor of the liver. In the 20 years since her transplant, Tippins has gone on to graduate high school, college, own her own company and volunteer with the Georgia Transplant Foundation.

Julie Allred on the Donate Life Float

Julie Allred on the Rose Parade Donate Life Float

Allred, a type 1 diabetic since age 10, got her first insulin pump in 1992. Despite her efforts to carefully watch her diet and test regularly, she continued to suffer the effects of severe hypoglycemia. But thanks to two islet cell transplants at the hands of Emory transplant surgeon Dr. Nicole Turgeon and interventional radiologist Dr. Kevin Kim, Julie has experienced relief in ways she never knew possible. Soon after the first islet transplant, the episodes of life-threatening low blood sugar levels stopped for Allred, helping her get back to the things she enjoys.

Dr. Turgeon joined Allred and Tippins on the Donate Life float, which also was decorated with floragraph portraits of deceased organ donors.

“The Rose Parade float is just one of the many ways we can raise awareness of the importance, need and life-saving capabilities of organ donation,” says Turgeon. “I was thrilled to be able to both honor our donors and celebrate life with our recipients.”