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100,000 People are Waiting for a Kidney. Learn More About Emory’s Paired Donor Exchange Program

Paired Donor Exchange ProgramDid you know that there are nearly 100,000 people on the kidney transplant waiting list? With the average wait time for a kidney now at four years, patients are often eager to seek other options to waiting on a deceased donor kidney so that they can get back to living a healthy life. Fortunately, with today’s medical advances, a living or a deceased person can donate a kidney.

The Emory Transplant Center launched its Kidney Paired Donor Exchange Program in 2010 and has been participating in the National Kidney Registry since 2012. Join Nicole Turgeon, MD, associate professor of surgery, Emory University School of Medicine and surgical director of the Paired Donor Exchange Program on April 8 for an online live chat to learn how paired donor exchange works, what it takes to become a donor and how paired donor exchange is helping patients dramatically improve their quality of life.

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10 Years and Still Diabetes Free – Islet Cell Transplant Patients Celebrate Anniversary of Life-Changing Procedure

islet-trans-patients“I feel free. I feel normal.” That’s what Emory Transplant Center patient Laura Cochran says of her life since having a pancreatic islet cell transplant to treat her brittle Type 1 diabetes.

Last week, Cochran, along with the Emory Transplant Center team and fellow patient Rob Allen, gathered to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of their participation in a clinical trial for their severe Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas ceases to produce insulin, a hormone that allows people to get energy from food. Type 1 diabetics must take insulin every day to live.

Both Cochran and Allen were diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as young adults. Allen’s diabetes was controlled with insulin injections for about 10 years until his episodes of low blood sugar became more frequent and more severe. As for Cochran, as her diabetes progressed, she developed hypoglycemia unawareness, where her blood sugar would drop so low so quickly, that she didn’t recognize how low her sugars were. She often became dazed during these episodes and had to be watched at all times. While both benefitted some from insulin pumps, they still needed more relief. Fortunately, they were candidates for a clinical trial at Emory where donor pancreatic islet cells were transplanted to restore insulin production in people with Type 1 diabetes.

Cochran and Allen each received two islet cell transplants from two different organ donors, several months apart. After the first transplant, they both still needed small amounts of insulin injections. After the second transplant, neither Cochran nor Allen needed insulin injections. Both have been insulin free since 2004.

“We transplanted just two teaspoons of islet cells into these patients 10 years ago, and they no longer need insulin injections,” says Christian Larsen, MD, DPhil, professor of surgery in the Division of Transplantation at Emory, and dean of Emory University School of Medicine. “This has been a miraculous transformation.”

Researchers are awaiting FDA approval of islet cell transplants so that the surgery will no longer be experimental. Once approval is obtained, surgeons can perform these transplants on patients who meet the criteria.

“The best part about the islet cell transplants is not having to worry daily about my blood glucose levels getting out of control,” says Allen. “It has been an amazing thing.”

Related Resources

Emory Islet Transplant Program
Islet Transplant For Type 1 Diabetes? Julie Allred’s Story

Emory Transplant Center Executive Director Elected to National Council by Peers

Dr. Thomas C. Pearson

Dr. Thomas C. Pearson

Thomas Pearson, MD, DPhil, executive director of the Emory Transplant Center, has been elected by organ donation professionals as incoming associate councillor of the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network and United Network for Organ Sharing (OPTN/UNOS) Region 3. Each of the 11 OPTN/UNOS regions has an associate councillor who serves as the regional representative to its national Membership and Professional Standards Committee. This committee oversees transplant community membership, policy and regulatory compliance and makes recommendations to the board regarding policy violations.

“Since 1991, Tom has been a valued friend and colleague at Emory and an esteemed transplant surgeon, bench and clinical researcher,” says Christian Larsen, MD, DPhil, dean of Emory University School of Medicine, former executive director of the Emory Transplant Center and a current kidney transplant surgeon. “But he also is internationally respected as a transplant immunologist, educator and transplant advocate, establishing many protocols in place today. He is perfectly suited to this role at OPTN/UNOS Region 3.”

Pearson, who is surgical director of the kidney transplant program at Emory and the Livingston Professor of Surgery, joined the Emory faculty in 1991. Together, with long time collaborator Larsen, they played a pivotal role in developing a new class of immunosuppressive drugs to replace the cyclosporine class of drugs and their major side effects and toxicities. The FDA approved the co-stimulation blocker called belatacept in June 2011 for kidney transplant recipients. This was the first time a new class of drug had been approved for transplant since the 1990s.

After Pearson’s term as associate councillor ends in 2016, he will assume the role of councillor for an additional two-year term of service (2016-2018), representing Region 3 on the OPTN/UNOS board of directors. Pearson also serves as medical director of LifeLink of Georgia, is a member of the Board of Governors for the LifeLink Foundation and is a board member of the American Society of Transplantation.

Mother Daughter Team Kicks Off Six-Way Kidney Swap

kidney-swapWhen Mother’s Day rolls around this year, Cindy Skrine and her daughter, also named Cindy, will have a lot to celebrate. Having lived with kidney disease for many years, the elder Cindy needed a kidney transplant. Her daughter was tested as a donor, but ultimately was not a match for her mother. She was, however, a match for someone in California. With the help of Emory’s Kidney Paired Donor Exchange program, thus began a six-way kidney swap that stretched from Georgia to California to Tennessee and then back to Georgia.

“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.

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. The Emory Transplant Center is the state’s largest transplant center performing the highest volume of kidney transplants in Georgia.

To learn more about the Skrine’s story, check out the video below:

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

Celebrating the Gift of Life in the New Year

Donate Life New Year's FloatWhile many people were recovering from New Year’s Eve parties and setting their resolutions for 2014, Emory transplant recipients Amy Tippins and Julie Allred were celebrating life on a much grander scale on New Year’s Day.

Tippins and Allred were two of 30 transplant recipients nationwide who rode on the Donate Life float in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., which preceded the Rose Bowl. The float, which featured illuminating lanterns, was called “Light Up the World,” and sought to bring awareness to organ and tissue donation.

Tippins received a liver transplant in 1993 at Emory University Hospital after being diagnosed as a teenager with hepatic adenoma, a rare benign tumor of the liver. In the 20 years since her transplant, Tippins has gone on to graduate high school, college, own her own company and volunteer with the Georgia Transplant Foundation.

Julie Allred on the Donate Life Float

Julie Allred on the Rose Parade Donate Life Float

Allred, a type 1 diabetic since age 10, got her first insulin pump in 1992. Despite her efforts to carefully watch her diet and test regularly, she continued to suffer the effects of severe hypoglycemia. But thanks to two islet cell transplants at the hands of Emory transplant surgeon Dr. Nicole Turgeon and interventional radiologist Dr. Kevin Kim, Julie has experienced relief in ways she never knew possible. Soon after the first islet transplant, the episodes of life-threatening low blood sugar levels stopped for Allred, helping her get back to the things she enjoys.

Dr. Turgeon joined Allred and Tippins on the Donate Life float, which also was decorated with floragraph portraits of deceased organ donors.

“The Rose Parade float is just one of the many ways we can raise awareness of the importance, need and life-saving capabilities of organ donation,” says Turgeon. “I was thrilled to be able to both honor our donors and celebrate life with our recipients.”

Donate Life: Georgia Capitol Event Honoring Organ Donors and their Families

Donate Life Light up the WorldEmory Transplant Center patient Amy Tippins was given a second chance at life. This New Year’s Day, she’ll honor the family that saved her life in the 125th Tournament of Roses Parade. Amy, the recipient of a life-saving liver transplant, will honor that gift by riding the Donate Life Rose Parade Float.

This year’s float, with the 2014 theme of “Light Up the World,” honors donors, recipients and their families who have been involved with organ, eye or tissue donation, and hopes to serve as a platform for inspiring others to heal and save the lives of those in need.

Amy is so thankful to her donor and her donor’s family, and has made it her life-mission to be a passionate advocate for organ donation. On December 17 at 11:00 a.m., Amy and other advocates for the cause will meet at the Georgia state capitol to put the finishing touches on decorations that will become part of “Light Up the World.” Amy, along with her donor’s family, will complete a floragraph of her donor’s image composed entirely of flowers and other organic materials. The floragraph will then travel to Pasadena to be placed on the float.

Amy will be joined at the capitol by Emory Transplant Center surgeon and surgical director of the Paired Donor Exchange Program, Dr. Nicole Turgeon, along with additional members of the Emory Healthcare team, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Grady Health System, Columbus Regional Health, Donate Life Georgia, LifeLink Foundation, the Georgia Eye Bank and many others involved in the organ transplantation process in Georgia.

The event is open to the public. Please visit Donate Life Georgia’s Light up the World Facebook page for details.

Related Resources:

Emory CEOs Dedicate Roses Honoring Organ Donation on Donate Life Rose Parade Float

John Fox signs a message on a rose for Donate Life Dedication Garden

Emory Healthcare CEO, John Fox, writes a handwritten message on a rose, which will be attached to the Donate Life Rose Parade Float. Thousands of roses, all with personalized messages, create the Donate Life Dedication Garden.

While the New Year is still a couple of months away, Emory is already gearing up for the first day of 2014. That’s because two Emory transplant patients and an Emory transplant surgeon have plans to ring in the New Year in Pasadena, California.

Emory Transplant Center patients Julie Allred, an islet cell recipient, and Amy Tippins, a liver recipient, have been invited to ride on the Donate Life float in the Rose Parade on Jan. 1. The float, with the 2014 theme of “Light Up the World,” honors donors, recipients and their families who have been involved with organ, eye or tissue donation.

Festivities kicked off this week when John Fox, CEO of Emory Healthcare, and Robert Bachman, CEO of Emory University Hospital, wrote touching messages thanking donors and their families for giving the gift of life. Dr. Thomas Pearson, director of the Emory Transplant Center and transplant surgeon, joined in the Rose Dedication event.

The handwritten messages are attached to individual vials that hold the roses on the float. Thousands of roses, all with personalized messages, create the Donate Life Dedication Garden.

“The rose dedication is one way we can honor donors, recipients and their families with personal messages of love, hope and remembrance,” says Bachman. “We pay great tribute to the patients and their families for their commitment to organ donation in a time of hardship.”

Dr. Nicole Turgeon, transplant surgeon and surgical director of the Paired Donor Exchange Program, will help decorate this year’s Donate Life float in California, along with Julie and Amy who will ride on the float with 28 other organ and tissue recipients.

Related Resources:

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:

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:

Related Resources:

Emory Transplant Center Supports the National Kidney Foundation

The Emory Transplant Center helped support the annual National Kidney Foundation Atlanta Walk, a fundraiser that benefits many of our patients in a multitude of ways. This year’s Team Emory, which walked in memory of the late Meg Jeffrey for the third year in a row, raised more than $6,000 for the NKF Atlanta Walk 2013, which was held on June 8. The team contributed the third largest amount out of 163 Atlanta teams participating in the event — quite an accomplishment.

“Thank you to everyone who helped make this possible with a donation of money or time,” says Team Emory’s coordinator, Jennifer Everett-Kitchens, physician assistant in the abdominal transplant programs. “My family and I are so proud to have helped organize this year’s NKF walk.”

Emory Transplant Center Team

Emory Transplant Center Team 2013
(Not shown are Satrina Hill, RN, manager of the Outpatient Transplant Clinic, and Nicole Turgeon, MD, who arrived a little late. She had just finished performing a transplant that morning!)

One of the walk’s most ardent supporters was John Fox, Emory Healthcare president and CEO, who supported Team Emory at the Silver level sponsorship. Chick-fil-A provided breakfast for walkers again this year. Dawn Fletcher, senior manager for clinical services and operations for the kidney program, and her daughter Lexi raised $300 during a bake sale.

“The Atlanta Walk has been an uplifting, team-building experience for the past three years,” Everett-Kitchens says. “The walk is an important ETC tradition that my family and I intend to continue to participate in, and we hope more of you will be able to join us next year.”

“We had several patients join us for the walk this year, which was really fantastic,” wrote ETC executive director Dr. Thomas Pearson in an email thanking walkers. He and Dr. Stephen Pastan, medical director of the kidney transplant program, were co-chairs of the walk again this year. “I hope that those of you that weren’t able to join us this year will be able to come next year. The walk has been a great opportunity to gather outside of work, and enjoy each other.”

“For those of us who knew Meg, worked with Meg, or were touched by her in any positive way, we can be certain that countless people across the state of Georgia are alive and healthier today in part because of her efforts and caring spirit,” Dr. Pearson continued.

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