General

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.”

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).

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