General

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.

 

 

Eat Well, Live Well: The Importance of Nutrition for the Transplant Patient

transplant nutritionWe all know good nutrition plays a critical role in overall health. But for transplant patients, good nutrition is especially important. Francoise Maillet, a clinical dietitician who works with the Emory Transplant Center, wrote an informative article that highlights the importance of nutrition and the powerful impact it has on the wellbeing of a transplant patient’s life.

“In the waiting period prior to a transplant, good nutrition plays a vital role in helping the potential recipient maintain maximum health and wellbeing. This can greatly affect the transplant surgery itself, the healing process, and also the quality of life afterward”, Maillet writes in her article, Eat Well to Live Long.

She continues on to say that post-transplant, the need for calories, protein, vitamins and minerals is increased during recovery. If nutritional needs are not met, malnutrition occurs. Malnutrition is when the body is significantly deprived of adequate nutrition. When the body is malnourished, there is a decrease in muscle mass and protein stores, leading to an impaired immune response (meaning the body will have difficulty fighting infection). Malnutrition can also interfere with the body’s ability to heal a wound; resulting in a lack of the building blocks needed to build and repair tissue.

A balanced, healthy diet will promote recovery and wellness. Prior to transplant, it is important to meet with a clinical nutritionist who can evaluate your diet and teach you the right foods to eat in order to meet your individual needs before and after transplant. Making healthy food choices is essential for your best outcome.
To read more, download the full article by clicking here.

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.

iCHOOSE Kidney – An Education App for Prospective Kidney Transplant Patients

iChoose Kidney AppFor patients suffering from end-stage renal disease (ESRD), there are two major treatment options: dialysis and kidney transplant. Of these two options, medical studies have shown that receiving a kidney transplant offers a better chance of survival and quality of life, eliminating the need for hours of dialysis treatment.

Although it is required by law for clinicians or physicians to discuss kidney transplant as a treatment option for their ESRD patients, Emory epidemiologist Rachel Patzer, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of surgery, says that many eligible patients are not being referred for kidney transplantation. Through her research, Patzer found that such disparities were often present in regions outside the Atlanta area.

“There are disparities in who is getting access to that information about transplant, which I think is leading to some of the disparities we see in access to getting on the waiting list and receiving a transplant,” Patzer says.

In order to address these treatment disparities and help patients understand the best treatment option for their individual cases, Patzer and the Emory transplant team created the iCHOOSE Kidney iPad application. The iCHOOSE Kidney app is a shared-decision making tool for providers or clinicians to use with their patients to inform them about potential risks and benefits of each treatment. “The app basically walks you through different risks for treatment options,” Patzer says.

While Patzer says the optimal treatment for kidney disease is transplant, she says this depends on patients’ individualized risk profile, which includes factors such as their age and other possible medical conditions they may have.

Upon a patient’s initial diagnosis of end-stage kidney disease, physicians or clinicians can enter in patient data into the iCHOOSE Kidney app, which in turn calculates the risks of dying on dialysis versus a kidney transplant. The app calculates both relative and absolute risks based on data from a national database of almost 700,000 patients.

The app tries to keep things simple for patients by presenting data in a picture format. Patzer says illustrating information visually is one of the best ways to convey risks to patients. “Showing patients you’re going to live this many years longer or that this is 10 times better is really more powerful than just giving them the average,” Patzer says.

The app is currently being used at the Emory Transplant Center and in the surrounding community. Patzer says that the Emory transplant surgeons and nephrologists use the iCHOOSE Kidney app as part of their communication and education with patients. You can find the iChoose Kidney app by searching your App Store.

A Home Away From Home for Transplant Patients

Mason House VisitThe Mason Guest House is a private retreat on the Emory University campus offering low cost housing for organ transplant candidates, recipients, living donors, and their families. It serves as a home-away-from-home, allowing patients to be away from the hospital setting, but yet close enough to feel secure should they need medical assistance.

During the holiday season, the Mason Guest House, like Emory University Hospital, did not close. It continued to serve transplant patients and their families, opening their doors to accommodate as many guests as possible. Kidney transplant recipient Donald Mason invited a couple of family members to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with him.

The wife of a lung transplant patient wrote on a comment card, “Because the timing of our transplant (and additional complications) that happened over the holidays, it touched our hearts that the Mason Guest House took that under consideration [and provided a] ‘holiday feel’ with a Thanksgiving dinner and atmosphere that allowed us to enjoy the holiday even though we were not able to spend it at home with our family. We now have extended family with your staff. God bless and thank you for all you do.”

Mason House HolidayLiver transplant recipient, Robert Croyle, schedules his annual follow-up appointments during the Thanksgiving holiday each year so that he can bring his traditional cornbread stuffing for dinner and play special holiday music for guests.

The Mason Guest House also hosted its annual Christmas dinner with some of the same guests who remained at the House throughout the holidays.

Many guests have to catch meals when they can, sometimes at odd hours. “Having a nice, unhurried sit-down meal is a much needed comfort to a lot of our guests,” says Mason Guest House guest services coordinator Zadya Lundgren. “We always enjoy the festive spirit and lively conversations we get to have with our guests during the holidays.”

For more information about the Mason Guest House or to make a reservation, call 404-712-5110.

Take a tour of the Mason Guest House. 

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.”