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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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A Not So Standard New Year’s for Dr. Nicole Turgeon

Dr. Nicole Turgeon, Emory Transplant

Dr. Nicole Turgeon

Just before New Year’s Day of 2012 you couldn’t find Dr. Nicole Turgeon, Emory kidney and pancreas transplant surgeon inside Emory Hospital walls as she normally is. Instead, Dr. Turgeon was taking time out of her holiday schedule for a cause she really believes in– organ donation. Dr. Turgeon jetted off to Pasadena, CA on December 29, 2012 to help decorate the Donate Life float for the Rose Bowl Parade.

“Although a small gesture, I wanted to pay tribute to the families who so selflessly give the gift of life to others,” she says of the experience. “I have seen the float on TV over the past several years and had wanted to participate. I was able to make it work this year with the incredible support of my family.”

Each year for the past six years, Donate Life has decorated a Rose Bowl Parade float with flowers. This year’s parade had the theme, “Just Imagine…,” and was viewed by millions of people at the event and on national television.

The Donate Life float had floral depictions of clock towers of the world, and six of the towers had 72 floral portraits memorializing deceased donors. The clocks were animated and rotated to mark the Donate Life theme, “One More Day,” and to recognize the value of time. Leading the float was a dedication garden honoring thousands of organ, eye and tissue donors and recipients nationwide, with roses in vials that had personalized messages. Twenty-eight transplant recipients, living donors or family members of donors rode on the float during the Rose Bowl Parade.

The Donate Life float had floral depictions of clock towers of the world, and six of the towers had 72 floral portraits memorializing deceased donors. The clocks were animated and rotated to mark the Donate Life theme, “One More Day,” and to recognize the value of time. Leading the float was a dedication garden honoring thousands of organ, eye and tissue donors and recipients nationwide, with roses in vials that had personalized messages. Twenty-eight transplant recipients, living donors or family members of donors rode on the float during the Rose Bowl Parade.

Related Resources:

Transplant Patients Benefit from Telemedicine Follow-Up Care

Transplant TelemedicineTelemedicine, now that is a word that either sounds from the future, or a phone call you get right when you sit down for dinner. At Emory though, telemedicine and organ transplantation are two medical innovations that work symbiotically to improve access to health care, patient outcomes, and the overall well-being for our Emory transplant patients.

Beyond providing consistent care at Emory’s Transplant Center, it is imperative that transplant patients have adequate follow-up care for a successful post-transplant recovery.  Transplant patient, Ken Sutha, winner of multiple medals at the National Kidney Foundation’s U.S. Transplant Games, is living proof of the importance of follow-up care. Via telemedicine, Emory physicians stay in contact and provide guidance in keeping transplant patients like him healthy.

Patients at Emory come from all over our large state of Georgia, including many from rural areas with limited access to appropriate health care. Today, after transplant patients are discharged from the hospital following surgery, they have the option to get their laboratory test and clinic visits done virtually over a telehealth network. This allows us to serve our transplant patients, and especially those outside of Atlanta with convenient and effective follow-up care.

Emory started its transplant telehealth program in January 2009 in an effort to increase access to health care throughout the state and in the past three years, it has seen substantial growth. Kevin Clark, Emory’s transplant department business manager, said the program is on track to have nearly 100 encounters with patients this year.

“We looked at 41 patients over the past couple of years to get an idea of true benefit and what we found was that these patients actually saved about 9,400 miles of drive time,” Clark said. With 33 patient presentation sites around the state of Georgia, transplants patients from Florida are also making use of the telehealth network. Ocala, Florida, resident Frank Brickey traveled to Tifton, Georgia, regularly for evaluations with his Emory transplant physicians following a kidney transplant in October 2008. Rather than making the six-hour drive to Atlanta for each visit and staying overnight, he only had to drive three and half hours and could make it a day visit.

“There is no waiting time, you just went right in and they take your vitals and you sit down in front of the teleprompter on the screen and communicate with the doctor face-to-face,” Brickey said. “It is very beneficial in that they know about you and it’s neat to have that contact with them. It is very reassuring.”

Brickey and other patients have said the staffs at telehealth sites are professional, easy to work with,and relatable, making this post surgery option an easy and steadfast choice. Being able to stay in contact with the physicians who actually performed their transplant procedure proved to be a huge benefit when complications arose, or just for the
peace of mind of communicating with the doctor who knows the patient best.

“I would definitely encourage anyone that has had a transplant at Emory or anywhere else that they stay close to the team that worked on them, with their physician and with their coordinators,” Brickey said.

Since Emory started its telehealth initiative, the program has seen substantial growth, a true tribute to not only the system, but the doctors, nurses, technicians, and patients, all who collaborate together to make telehealth not only successful, but revolutionary, for the post-transplant care.

To learn more about the Emory Transplant Center, visit: http://www.emoryhealthcare.org/transplant-center/index.html target=”_blank”

Welcome to the Emory Healthcare Transplant Center Blog

We’re delighted to be the next Emory Healthcare medical department to join the “Advancing Your Health” blog.

Our posts will be authored by physicians, patients, and staff, and our blog content will consist of recent Emory Transplant Center medical innovations, patient success stories, videos, educational pieces, and newsworthy events.

The Transplant Center has pioneered many firsts in the transplant field, including Georgia’s first kidney transplant in 1966, and its first lung transplant in 1993. We offer transplantation programs for the Hand, Heart, Islet, Kidney, Liver, Lung and Pancreas.

For us, the Transplant Center blog is an ideal opportunity to create a dialogue with our community—we strongly encourage you to join the conversation and share your comments, questions and stories with us. Also, if there are specific topics that you’d like for us to cover, please be sure to let us know.

We look forward to connecting with you and hearing your feedback!