Living Donor Transplant

From a Life of Giving to Giving the Gift of Life

Michael (Mike) Beller wanted to make a real difference in the lives of others. He didn’t want to help just one person, he wanted to help as many people as he could. So Mike decided to altruistically donate one of his kidneys, which was the kickoff to a kidney transplant chain that has effected people in Atlanta to Wisconsin and beyond.

As the son of missionaries in Mexico, Mike grew up believing he had the responsibility to give back. He currently serves as Chief of Investigations for the Chamblee Police Department, and formerly served as an Army ranger. He is also the father of 5 children.

“It’s amazing,” says transplant surgeon Dr. Nicole Turgeon, “he’s lived a life where he has been giving, to his family, to his job and to his country.”

Last winter Mike started thinking abut donating a kidney. He found an article on the internet about the National Kidney Registry.

“There are 90,000 people in this country that need a kidney and there’s 1000s of them every year that die without one”, says Mike.

The National Kidney Registry matches people who need a kidney and have a willing donor who is not a match for them, with someone who is a match; therefore, connecting together a chain of transplants with p aired donors across the country.

In paired donation, an incompatible donor and recipient pair is matched with another incompatible donor and recipient pair, and the kidneys are exchanged between the pairs. By giving their kidneys to unknown, but compatible, individuals, the donors can provide two or more patients with healthy kidneys where previously no transplant would have been possible.

Mike decided he wanted to be the person to start one these chains.

“If he gave to one person, that would be great but this would allow him the possibility to maybe help two, three, five, six, and in some chains we see even up to 50 or 60 people involved,” says Dr. Turgeon.

On August 1st, Mike donated his healthy kidney that was immediately flown by passenger jet to Madison, Wisconsin to save the life of a recipient. Mike’s gift would then trigger another transplant in Pennsylvania, and then another in South Carolina and so the chain goes on.

Two and a half weeks later Mike returned to work and is doing well.

Says Mike, “I can’t think of anything else you could do that could help another human being this effectively.

Mike’s story was recently featured on Fox 5 News. You can learn more about this tremendous gift by watching the video below:

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Emory Transplant Center Takes Part in Second Largest Kidney Swap in History: 28 people Now Have a New Lease On Life

Kidney swap patients Troy Milford & Robert PooleAs a former pastor, Troy Milford had spent years counseling his congregation through the joys and challenges of their lives. But, as it turns out, he was quietly dealing with a challenge of his own.

In 1997, he was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease. Though he felt well on dialysis, he knew he’d eventually need a kidney transplant. In 2010, he was placed on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. Several of Troy’s family members were tested in hopes of donating their kidney to him, but they were not matches. Troy’s friend and parishioner, Robert Poole was then tested, but he wasn’t a match either. That’s when Robert (pictured right with recipient Troy Milford) learned about the Kidney Paired Donor Exchange Program at Emory University Hospital.

“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. This was the case with Mr. Poole and Mr. Milford, and the basis of how Chain 221 worked.”

Map of Kidney Transplant SwapTroy and Robert are now part of the world’s second largest kidney swap in history, and the largest kidney swap to be concluded in less than 40 days. Named “Chain 221” by the National Kidney Registry, the chain involved 56 participants, which facilitated 28 transplants in 19 transplant centers across the country, including the Emory Transplant Center. A Good Samaritan donor, also known as an altruistic donor, initiated Chain 221 in Memphis on April 30, 2013, and the chain ended just five weeks later, on June 5, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Both Troy and Robert underwent surgery on April 30 at Emory University Hospital. That day Troy received his new kidney, while Robert donated his kidney to another person half way across the country, also in need of the new organ. Both men are doing well after their surgeries.

“Words can’t say how it made me feel that Robert, who’s not even related to me, would do this for me,” says kidney recipient Troy. “I am one of 28 people who has a new kidney, and a new outlook on life, thanks to this swap. That’s what God can do. He can work miracles.”

“Troy is a good friend and special person,” says Robert, who manages a golf course in Canton. “He was too proud to ask for help, even when he was sick, so I am really happy I could assist. It didn’t matter to me if I gave to someone I knew or to someone across the country. I was just thrilled to donate on behalf of Troy.”

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. “Ultimately we want to bring awareness to living and deceased donation with this story,” Turgeon explains.

Since the Kidney Paired Donor Exchange Program began at Emory, the hospital’s surgeons have performed 27 kidney transplants. The Emory Transplant Center is the state’s largest transplant center performing the highest volume of kidney transplants in Georgia. In 1966, Emory performed the first Georgia kidney transplant. To date, the Emory Transplant Center has performed more than 4,300 kidney transplants, with 247 kidney transplants performed in 2012.

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

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Six Lives Connected through Paired Donor Kidney Exchange

Living Organ DonationThe Emory Transplant Center played a role in a 6-chain kidney swap that will forever bind 6 individuals.  Maya Cosola wanted to donate a kidney to her aunt but was not a compatible match.  So she agreed to be a part of paired donor kidney exchange program that allows incompatible donor and recipient pairs to be matched with other incompatible donor and recipient pairs, allowing kidneys to be exchanged between these pairs. A match between pairs was arranged, and Maya’s kidney was flown to someone in North Carolina, and thus began the 6-chain exchange across 4 states.

Share their touching story in this video from Fox 5 below:

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

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When Living Organ Donation Means Living On Through Others

Living Organ Donation Donate Life MonthIn recognition of Donate Life month, the Emory Transplant Center was honored to have a very special speaker share an extraordinary story – one that touches the very heart of what it means to give the gift of life even in times of heartbreak.

Scott Haggard shared with Emory physicians and staff the story of his sister, Terri Haggard Wade – a loving 48 year old wife, mother, sister and daughter – who spent her professional career as a nurse.  And as part of the medical profession, Terri knew the importance of organ donation.  As a matter of fact, when her son was learning to drive, Terri said that before he could drive on his own, he would need to register to become an organ donor.

It was March of 2009 when Terri was rear ended in an automobile accident.  She began to experience headaches, and when they continued after a few weeks, Terri decided to go to an urgent care center to be evaluated. The urgent care center sent her to a nearby hospital to have a CT scan of her head.  And that was when they discovered Terri had a brain tumor.

On April 15, 2009, Terri had surgery to remove her tumor.  The surgery was more complicated than anticipated, and Terri did not wake up immediately after the surgery.  After ten days, Terri still had not awakened and her intracranial pressure spiked to very high levels, causing brain death.

At this time, Terri’s medical team approached her family asking them to make a very difficult decision.  They had to decide whether or not to allow Terri’s organs to be donated – they knew she wasn’t really with them anymore.

“We were never going to have Terri,” said Scott, “but to have her be able to help others, even in death, meant everything to us”.

To honor Terri’s wishes, her organs were donated, saving lives as she had done so many times before as a neonatal intensive care nurse at Egleston.  Terri was very loved among many – over 700 people were present at her funeral.

Although Scott knows that the individuals who received his sister’s organ are grateful for their gift of life, he says “It also means a lot to us, the donor family, to know that Terri is able to live through others”.

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Kevin Jordan and Coach Tom Still Hitting Homeruns

Kevin Jordan Wake Forest Kidney Transplant at Emory

The gift of giving is rewarding on many levels. Giving doesn’t have to be monetary or flashy; in fact, taking the extra step to register and give the gift of life can be the most rewarding gift ever.

Take for example two of our patients, Kevin Jordan and Coach Tom Walter. In 2011, 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 University, 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.

With only a 15% chance of a non-family member making it through the organ transplant matching to donation process, Coach Tom stepped in, armed with a goal and a healthy kidney to donate , he got tested to see if he was a match to serve as Kevin’s donor. The chances of Coach Tom’s kidney being a viable option for Kevin were slim, but… what if? Coach Tom proved to be a viable organ donor for Kevin, and without hesitation, he agreed. You can read more about their story here.

After going through with the transplant, both Kevin Jordan and Coach Tom Walter are doing fine. So great, in fact, that they recently came back to Atlanta with the rest of the Wake Forest Baseball team, who was in town to take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets! It seems that Kevin and Coach Tom truly continue to hit the ball out of the park!

April is National Donate Life Month, register today to be an organ donor and give the lasting gift of life.

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Atlanta: Celebrate Organ Donation with us in April!

Donate Life Month LogoApril is when we as a nation recognize National Donate Life Month. To celebrate the gift of life and organ donation here in Atlanta, Emory is hosting a number of activities and events. We take this time to honor organ donors, the families who make the crucial decision to donate a loved one’s organs, and the relatives, friends and others who donate living donor organs to transplant recipients.

Here are the activities we have planned during Donate Life Month:

Thursday, April 18, 2013 — Swing Easy, Hit Hard Charity Golf Tournament

Book your favorite foursome in this benefit golf tournament and support the Emory Transplant Center and Georgia Transplant Foundation. Event info and registration > 

(Kirk Franz, the recreation manager for the city of Johns Creek, and his family and friends first organized the Swing Easy, Hit Hard Charity Golf Tournament in 2010 to support his transplant fund. He had a lifesaving liver transplant at Emory to treat cholangiocarcinoma, or bile duct cancer. Now that he is fully recovered from his transplant, he and his family (pictured below) organized a nonprofit foundation to continue hosting the event annually to benefit other transplant patients at Emory and at Georgia Transplant Foundation. The foundation helps patients like Franz raise funds for escalating medical expenses following transplantation, which the organization matches up to $10,000 in the first year post-transplant. Last year’s golf tournament raised more than $2,000 each for the Emory Transplant Center and Georgia Transplant Foundation.)

Friday, April 19, 2013 Blue and Green Day

Donate Life Month, Blue & Green Day

Flaunt your best blue and green and show your support for Donate Life’s efforts to register individuals as organ, eye and tissue donors. Wear blue and green or decorate your office or join the day’s Facebook event page. Make sure you post your pictures on our Emory Transplant Center Facebook page, too!

You can also learn more about Blue and Green Day on the Donate Life website.

Week of April 22 – 26, 2013Emory Donate Life Week

Look for information tables with staff and LifeLink of Georgia volunteers answering questions about donation on Monday and Tuesday during lunch hour outside Emory University Hospital’s Asbury Court and in the mornings on the walkway between Emory Clinic buildings A and B.

This month also gives us an opportunity to recognize and thank our neuroscience and critical care colleagues dedicated to caring for patients at the end-of-life who are potential donors. They lovingly work with donor families during a stressful point in their lives. In addition, we commend the staff that work with individuals who make the decision to become a related or non-related living donor. The donation process can be a catharsis for these donors and families, who help make renewed lives possible through transplantation.

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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.

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Knocking the ‘What Ifs’ Out of the Park

Georgia native and Wake Forest University baseball player’s life saved by Coach Tom, Emory Transplant Center, and divine intervention.

Kevin Jordan Wake Forest Kidney Transplant at Emory

Wake Forest University baseball coach Tom Walter and Wake Forest student athlete Kevin Jordan, with Dr. Alan Kirk, the Emory Transplant Center surgeon

We can find a reason in almost every situation to ask, “what if?” But what if, we didn’t? What if instead, we took a more active role in doing the right thing regardless of chance? Sometimes, it’s the ‘what ifs’ in life that prove to reveal a clear purpose in hindsight, and that’s exactly what’s been demonstrated in one of the most amazing stories we here at Emory have witnessed.

One year ago, while still a senior at Northside Columbus High School in Columbus, GA, Kevin Jordan was diagnosed with ANCA vasculitis, an autoimmune disorder that typically leads to almost immediate kidney failure. Kevin, an all-star baseball player who, at the time was being actively recruited by both Wake Forest University (WFU) and Auburn, was faced with an illness that could potentially change his future not only in baseball, but in life.

When faced with life-altering barriers, many of us give up– not Kevin. Despite his diagnosis meaning days that were previously filled with class and practice would now also need to accommodate 11-12 hours attached to a dialysis machine, he displayed the same courage and passion he is known for on the field. The same courage and passion that led Wake Forest University baseball coach, Tom Walter, to extend an offer to Kevin to continue his student-athlete career at WFU.

Despite circumstances, Kevin didn’t give up. He accepted the offer to attend Wake Forest and in doing so, immediately became part of a family he previously didn’t know existed. A family that would prove to play a role so fundamental to Kevin’s life that from it, a true genetic/medical connection would be established.

During his time at Wake Forest, Coach Tom noticed that Kevin’s strength and speed on the field had begun to deteriorate since high school. What hadn’t, was his “sweet swing” of the baseball bat. Kevin was clearly being impeded by his condition, but continued to attend practice with his team daily. He knew each day he would return to his dorm to spend the next 12 hours with his dialysis machine, but he kept his head up.

At this point, Kevin was in desperate need of a kidney. After both his mother and brother failed to meet matching criteria to serve as living donors, he didn’t have very many options. And that’s where Kevin’s second family comes into play. As much as he does his own two daughters, Wake Forest’s Coach Tom considers each and every player he’s ever coached to be part of his own family. Not even a year into Kevin’s time at WFU but already part of the family, Coach Tom himself volunteered to step up and be evaluated for a kidney donor match.

With only a 15% chance of a non-family member making it through the organ transplant matching to donation process, the chances of Coach Tom’s kidney being a viable option for Kevin were slim, but… what if? Coach Tom proved to be a viable organ donor for Kevin, and without hesitation, he agreed.

As if the family connection wasn’t already strong for members of the Wake Forest baseball team, it just got a whole lot stronger. After completing the living donor transplant from Coach Walter to Kevin on Monday, Emory’s Dr. Newell and Dr. Kirk have established an official medical bond between family members at WFU. Today, Kevin, Coach Tom, and doctors Newell and Kirk spoke on the results of the procedure and just two days after the transplant, both Kevin and Coach Tom were bright eyed and hopeful for things to come.

Coach Tom was asked at the recent press conference, what if one of his daughters needs a kidney transplant in the future and serving as the donor is no longer an option? In his response, we saw the same strength of character that Kevin has demonstrated all along. Coach Tom remarked that much like you can’t live your life as a hermit for fear you might be in a car accident upon leaving the house, so too we cannot live our lives in fear of ‘what ifs’.

Coach Tom previously served as head coach of the University of New Orleans (UNO) program and during his time there is when Hurricane Katrina hit. Coach Tom looks at his experiences with his UNO family in the same way he does his experiences at WFU and he attributes them to some form of divine intervention. More than anything, this story teaches us to stop questioning and worrying about ‘what ifs’ and to instead focus on doing the right thing, assuming you will be given the opportunity at the right time.

A combination of strength of character and a multitude of elements of chance for Kevin mean that instead of facing a lifetime of hardship, he has just 8 weeks of recovery time ahead of him. And if his past is any indication of his future, he is sure to continue as he has in the past– with passion and ambition to overcome even the most trying circumstances. And with any luck, he’ll be back on the diamond with his coach and family in no time.

View the video of today’s press conference with Kevin Jordan, Coach Tom, and the Emory Transplant Team.