General

Changes to the UNOS Kidney Allocation System

Organ Donation Wait TimeThe Emory Transplant Center would like to share with our transplant community some important changes to the kidney allocation system managed by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). As many of you know, UNOS manages the nation’s organ transplant system and helps make the best use of donated organs. More specifically, the UNOS Kidney Committee had been meeting regularly to discuss an improved kidney allocation system which resulted in the UNOS Board of Directors approving a new kidney matching system that took effect on December 4, 2014.

Under the previous system, how long a person had undergone dialysis prior to being placed on the wait list did not count. But with this new system, it has changed.

“One of the major differences is that now you will be given credit for your dialysis time that will be added on to the time you’ve been on the waiting list,” says kidney transplant surgeon Dr. Nicole Turgeon of the Emory Kidney Transplant Program.

If you began dialysis before you were listed, your wait time will be backdated to the day you began dialysis. Dr. Turgeon says the new guidelines could really help many longtime dialysis patients.

Here are some important points to note with the new system:

  1. The time you spend waiting for a kidney is still a major factor in organ matching.
  2. You will not lose credit for any time you have already spent waiting.
  3. If you began dialysis or met the medical definition of kidney failure at the time you were listed for transplant, your waiting time will not change.
  4. If you began dialysis before you were listed for a kidney transplant, the time between beginning dialysis and being listed will be added to your waiting time.
  5. People who have the longest potential need for a transplanted organ and those who have been difficult to match under the current system will receive greater priority under the new system.
  6. The new system should provide more transplant opportunities, so that everyone has a better chance to be transplanted.

“It is big news for our patients. I think it’s really going to help them in terms of getting better access to transplants,” says Dr. Turgeon.

UNOS continues to monitor the system closely to make sure it is meeting the needs of patients. For more detailed information about the new kidney allocation system, visit the UNOS website at www.unos.org.

Transplant Patients: Protect Yourself Against the Flu

Flu Shots for Transplant PatientsWith winter only a few months away, flu season is rapidly approaching. Because transplant patients have a chronic disease and/or are now taking anti-rejection medicine, they are at an increased risk of getting the flu.

The flu, or influenza, can be deadly for transplant patients. Research has shown that flu vaccination is the most effective way to reduce complications and deaths related to influenza.

If you had your transplant at least three months ago, it’s time to roll up your sleeve and get protected now. If you have not hit three months yet, be sure to ask for the shot during your three-month follow-up visit. To protect yourself even further, others in your household should also get flu shots or FluMist (NOTE: Transplant patients should have an injectable vaccine (a shot) only and not the FluMist).

Please be advised that it may take up to two weeks after getting vaccinated to build up your protection, so sooner (after three months post-transplant) rather than later is best. As a reminder, for egg-allergic individuals, there is a non-egg-based flu vaccine so you, too, can be vaccinated. Talk to your doctor or coordinator to learn more.

If you have an appointment at one of the Emory Transplant Center outpatient locations (Clifton Road, Emory Saint Joseph’s, Acworth, Dublin or Savannah) in November or December, be sure to get your flu shot when you are there. If you do not have an appointment with the Emory Transplant Center, please go to your local physician, a public health clinic, or a local pharmacy or grocery store that is giving flu shots, and roll up your sleeve.

Make a commitment to get your flu shot to ward off the flu this year. We are all getting ours to protect you as well.

Remember, we’re all in this together.

Emory University Hospital Midtown Honors Organ Donors

Emory Hospital Donate LifeEarlier this month, team members from Emory University Hospital Midtown gathered on the steps of the hospital to recognize and celebrate organ donors.

Currently, there are more than 120,000 men, women and children in the United States who are waiting on an organ transplant. Though transplantation saves thousands of lives each year, there are always many more people in need of a transplant than there are organ donors. With that in mind, a team of nurses, chaplains and staff have boosted efforts to raise awareness of organ donation.

“Organ donation is a difficult thing to talk to families about, especially when they’re facing the sadness of losing a loved one,” explained Sheila Taylor, RN, an intensive care nurse and the nurse champion for organ donation awareness at Emory University Hospital Midtown. “It is so important to share with people just how many lives organ donation can save.”

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

Transplant Patients Need Protection Against the Flu

Flu transplant patientsWith winter only a few months away, flu season is rapidly approaching. The flu, or influenza, can be deadly for transplant patients. Because you have a chronic disease and/or are now taking anti-rejection medication, you are at an increased risk of getting the flu.

Research has shown that flu vaccination is the most effective way to reduce complications and deaths related to influenza. Don’t be caught without your flu shot!

If you had your transplant at least three months ago, it’s time to roll up your sleeve and get protected now. If you have not hit three months yet, be sure to ask for it during your three-month follow-up visit. To protect you even further, others in your household should also get flu shots or FluMist. (NOTE: Transplant patients should receive an injectable vaccine, a shot, and not FluMist [administered through the nose], which is a live flu vaccine).

Please be advised that it may take up to two weeks after getting vaccinated to build up your protection, so sooner (after three months post-transplant) rather than later is best!

In the past, if you avoided the flu shot because you are allergic to eggs, there is good news. This year, for egg-allergic individuals, there is a non-egg-based flu vaccine so you too can be vaccinated. Talk to your doctor or coordinator to learn more.

It’s time to roll up your sleeve, and take your family or housemates with you to get their shots as well. Make a commitment to get your flu shot to ward off the flu this year. We, at the Emory Transplant Center, are all getting our shots to protect you as well.

Remember, we’re all in this together.

Emory Transplant Center Coordinator, Juanita Conner – Dedicated to Helping Patients

Juanita Conner, a nurse since 1984, is a Kidney Transplant Coordinator with the Emory Transplant Center. Prior to joining Emory in 2008, Juanita worked in various roles as a nurse and case manager, earning certifications in case management, health care quality and nephrology nursing. It wasn’t until her role at Emory that all of her experience, education and expertise came together.

Kidney Transplant Coordinator, Juanita Conner

Juanita Conner, Kidney Transplant Coordinator
Photo via Leita Cowart, AJC.com

“This work [as a Kidney Transplant Coordinator] allows me to use all my nursing background and skills. I have found my niche,” says Juanita Conner, RN, BSN, MPA, CCM, CNN, CPHQ, CCTC.

Juanita chose to work with chronic kidney disease patients because they have options, and she believes she can help them the most.

“It’s a population I’m passionate about, and kidney disease is an epidemic in this country, especially in the South,” she said.

An estimated 26 million adults in the United States have chronic kidney disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This can lead to end-stage renal disease (ESRD) or kidney failure.

Kidney and Liver Transplant Patients Receive Care Closer to Home at a Our Newest Location

Emory Transplant Center at Saint Joseph'sAs we continue to find ways to enhance our patient experience, the Emory Transplant Center is pleased to provide world-class transplant care closer to home at our Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital campus. Emory now offers both kidney transplant and liver transplant services at this location, where patients can receive transplant consultations and post-transplant follow-up care. Along with our three existing satellite offices in Dublin, Cartersville and Savannah, we are proud to offer Georgians better access to transplant services and care without making a trip to the Emory University campus.

The Emory Transplant Center at Saint Joseph’s is conveniently at:

5673 Peachtree Dunwoody Road NE
Suite 350
Atlanta, GA 30342

Our team of transplant physicians and staff will work with you every step of the way to ensure superior care and service. If you have questions or would like to schedule your appointment at our newest location, please call 1-855-EMORYTX (366-7989).

Related Resources:

Donate Life Month – Pros & Cons of Organ Donation

Since 2003, April has served as National Donate Life Month and provided the health and transplant communities with an entire month of local, regional and national activities to help support and raise awareness around organ donation.

Currently more than 115,000 men, women and children are awaiting organ transplants to save their lives. They’re in need of hearts, kidneys, livers, lungs, and other organs which can all be transplanted if donors were available, giving them a second chance at life. Understandably, potential donors may have reservations about organ donation, but we’ve compiled a list of pros and cons to help you with your decision of the gift of life.

Pros:

  • ONE organ donor can save up to EIGHT lives. There are nearly 115,000 men, women and children waiting for an 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. Living people can donate a kidney, portions of the liver, lung, pancreas and intestines, as well as blood, and go on to live healthy lives. Most often it is relatives who do living tissue donation. It is possible, however, to register for completely humanitarian reasons and give organs to a stranger.

Cons:

  • 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.
  • 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 become a donor and for more information visit Donate Life today.

Related Resources

 

Protect Yourself and Others This Flu Season

Flu Shot image

It’s flu season, which means time to prevent the spread and stop the influenza virus cold in its tracks. Everyone is capable of transmitting and contracting the flu virus, but transplant recipients are even more vulnerable to the flu and its complications than the general population. This is one of the many reasons our team at the Emory Transplant Center is committed to getting our patients—and our faculty and staff—vaccinated each year. Last year, the Emory Transplant Center and its infectious disease service alone administered 930 flu vaccines to pre- and post-transplant patients, which was about 90% of the patients we saw at the Transplant Center in 2011.

As part of the Emory Healthcare family, we are all dedicated to keeping our patients, their families and our colleagues safe. In the health care industry, it is inevitable that each year there will be patients who contract influenza from their health care workers. Required annual vaccinations against seasonal influenza for all Emory Healthcare employees is one important way we help to create and ensure a safe, healthy environment.

Below are the annual vaccination guidelines for our Emory Transplant Center patients and caregivers. Those who should get the seasonal flu shot include:

• Patients who have reached the three-month post-transplant mark by Sept. 1 or who will be three months post-transplant before March 31, 2013

• Individuals who have had a transplant between Sept. 1 and March 31 and have approval from their treating physicians

• Those who are undergoing evaluation for transplantation or are on a waiting list for a transplant

• Patients in heart failure

• Patients 65 years and older (may receive high dose vaccine)

• Transplant recipients, their family members and others in close contact with recipients (should receive the injectable flu vaccine instead of the FluMist® nasal spray)

• All Emory Transplant Center faculty and staff

Resources

Celebrating the Gift of Life – Donate Life Month

Since 2003, April has served as National Donate Life Month and provided the health and transplant communities with an entire month of local, regional and national activities to help support and raise awareness around organ donation and celebrate those who have given the gift of life to others by donating. We’ve seen some amazing gifts of generosity here at Emory since National Donate Life Month last year, and in honor of the month, we’d like to celebrate those members of our community who have truly given of themselves in an effort to save the lives of others.

Pamela Emory Employee Living Donor

Pamela Lesane

We kicked off Donate Life Month last year with the help of Pamela Lesane, an Emory Healthcare employee and now patient, after making a very generous gift to her own sister. After beginning her career with Emory Healthcare in Guest Services, Pamela came into contact with a transplant coordinator who asked her if her sister, who had suffered from kidney disease all her life, had ever been evaluated for a transplant. She had not, so Pamela helped her push forward in getting evaluated and her sister was placed on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. It turned out Pamela would be a match for her sister’s transplant, and the rest is history. You can read more on Pamela’s story here.

Shortly after Pamela was able to help bring renewed life to her sister via organ donation, six lives at Emory were saved by as a result of a selfless donation from one man, Jon Pomenville, from Anderson, South Carolina. Imagine waking up one morning in good health and deciding out of the goodness of your heart to donate your kidney to someone you didn’t even know – anyone, anywhere. That’s exactly what Jon did and he wasn’t looking for credit. In fact he was completely comfortable with remaining anonymous throughout the process. But during a follow-up visit to Emory University Hospital, Jon met many of the individuals whose lives he helped change – right there in the transplant clinic waiting room. Jon and four of the other donors and recipients in what is referred to as a paired kidney transplant were coincidentally scheduled for follow-up appointments within a short period of time of one another. It was only a matter of minutes before the patients – recipients and donors – two father and son combinations and Jon, the man who would give to anyone – were hugging, shaking hands, and recounting their lives and experiences. As one person began recounting the experience, eyes and ears began to focus on the tale being told from across a crowded room. Share Jon’s story.

Lester Crowell

Lester Crowell

Many of our transplant community members are recipients of organ donations themselves and have opted to find ways to give back to others in need. Lester Crowell, is a fantastic example of an Emory Transplant patient who took giving back to a whole new level. Lester is a two-time recipient of a donated heart, and as a heart transplant patient, he shared the love in a major way by holding an event to help raise awareness and over $30,000 for the Georgia Transplant Foundation. Check out Lester’s story in this video and blog post.

Kevin Jordan Wake Forest Kidney Transplant at Emory

Coach Tom Walter & Kevin Jordan

We’ve seen family members give to family members, anonymous givers donate life to change the lives of others, and a transplant patient who gave back to the community, but one story, that of Kevin Jordan and Coach Tom Walter of Wake Forest University was an especially touching one for us here at Emory. In February of 2011, we shared Part I of their story. To bring you up to speed, Kevin was diagnosed with ANCA vasculitis, an autoimmune disorder that typically leads to almost immediate kidney failure. At the time, Kevin was an all-star baseball player being actively recruited by both Wake Forest University (WFU) and Auburn, but he was faced with an illness that could potentially change his future not only in baseball, but in life. Kevin opted to join the crew at Wake Forest, but as his condition worsened, it became clear to both Kevin and Coach Tom that something would need to be done. Kevin was in desperate need of a new kidney, and when neither his mother nor father met matching criteria to serve as a living donor, Coach Tom volunteered to be tested as a match. A match he was, and the story is pretty much a fairytale from there. Just months after joining the Wake Forest crew, Kevin and his coach would share a lifelong bond, making them family both on and off the field. In October of this year, just 7 months later, Kevin was able to return to practice at the sport he loves thanks to the generous gift of Coach Tom. Share their story here.

Clay Taber, Transplant Patient with Nurse Allison Batson

Clay Taber & Allison Batson

The giving back here at Emory continued when just a few months ago, our own transplant nurse, Allison Batson, gave of herself, literally, to 23-year-old patient, Clay Taber, who was in desperate need of a kidney transplant. “Immediately when Clay came onto our unit, he became a special patient that everyone just gravitated to,” said Allison Batson. “Here was this young man with everything in his life ahead of him, and he was fighting for his life. He quickly became friends of many of the staff, and really was just a tremendous inspiration to us all.” Allison continued to visit with Clay during his weeks at the hospital, and a deeper connection began to form than the typical nurse-patient bond. “She said ‘If you’ll let me do this, I want to donate my kidney to you,” Clay recalls. “Something at that point just hit me. There are so many people in need of an organ transplant and have been waiting like me – even longer than me in many cases. And here is Allison offering to do this amazing thing. When she said ‘If you’ll let me,’ there was just something in those words. I couldn’t say no.” Share Allison and Clay’s story here.

We are so grateful to the steps that have been taken by the Emory transplant community to celebrate and give the gift of life. Countless lives are changed at the Emory Transplant Center every year because of selfless gifts of those in our community. In honor of Donate Life Month, we will help to spotlight some of these very special stories in the weeks to come. If you have your own story to share, or just want to give thanks to those here who have given the gift of life, please use the comments section below.

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