Patient Stories

Giving the Gift of Life: Former Marine Donates Kidney to National Guardsman

MarineGuardsmanPhotoThe Emory Transplant Center loves to share heartwarming stories that happen right here in our Center. As we celebrate Donate Life month, we would like to honor those who have graciously made the decision to give the gift life. Former Marine, Temple Jeffords, is one of those individuals. He made the decision to donate one of his kidneys to help out a fellow serviceman.

It all started with a plea for help via social media. Suffering with Stage 4 kidney disease, 28-year-old Dustin Brown, Army National Guardsman, relied on dialysis machines to rid his body of waste, salt and water that his failing kidneys could no longer do. Doctors told him a kidney transplant was needed.

Dustin connected with Kristi and Raleigh Callaway. Raleigh Callaway, a Greensboro, Georgia, police officer, received a new kidney in 2014 following a Facebook post publicly appealing for help.

Soon Brown, posing with his wife and five-year-old son, had a similar Facebook post on the Callaway’s page, desperately searching for a new kidney.

Former Marine, Temple Jeffords, saw the plea for help and contacted Kristi Callaway and the Emory Kidney Transplant Program. A few weeks later, 44-year-old Jeffords learned he was a match for Brown.

“I have never thought about donating a kidney to anyone, but when I saw another serviceman’s need for help, I wanted to help,” says Jeffords. “The testing and donating processes are simple.”

Living donor kidney transplants, such as this one, make the wait times shorter for critically-ill patients, while also providing the greatest chances for long-term success,” says Nicole Turgeon, MD, surgical director of the Paired Donor Kidney Exchange Program at Emory Transplant Center.

“I am so thankful for Temple,” said Brown, just days after his kidney transplant surgery. “Brothers in arms are always brothers, no matter what. He is a super hero in our family.”

Watch the story featured on ABC News here.

Watch the story featured on Fox News here.

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about kidney transplant and the Emory Living Donor Kidney Program 

Putting the Care of Our Transplant Patients First

patients firstThe Emory Transplant Center is very grateful to our compassionate and dedicated employees and faculty who treat our patients with the highest level of care possible. We strive to deliver outstanding quality with every patient interaction every day. Sometimes, all it takes is a smile to make someone feel special. The Emory Transplant Center is proud to share some excellent patient and family comments we have received highlighting the care we give.

  • I love case coordinator Ms. Santiba [Johnson, kidney transplant coordinator]. She went out of her way to make sure I was informed, comfortable and had what I needed to make an informed decision.
  • I am extremely pleased with Dr. [James] Spivey and all of the personnel in the transplant center. They saved my life not just with the liver transplant, but also with all of the issues and meds that I had after the transplant. I was fortunate to be able to receive a transplant. No one believes that I was ever as sick as I was. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, Emory!
  • I love the staff. I visit the Emory [outpatient] transplant clinic every month. Most of the people working there know me by name.
  • The nurses in the infusion area are all excellent. They are always friendly and have a great attitude. They make sure I’m ok.
  • All of my experiences have been over and beyond my expectations, whether small to me or large to me. My prescription refills after calling Emory is an ease and a joy. Please don’t change the warmth of the employees — they are Human and Real, and the Best. Hats off to Emory.
  • The staff has always been lovely to my family and me. Fast, efficient service with well explained process and services being done.
  • The heart transplant team is terrific. They have taken great care of me during the past 15 years.
  • Love the doctors, especially Dr. [John Paul] Norvell, and we love the front [desk] staff. It is a soothing atmosphere while waiting.
  • Wonderful staff at registration. Cheerful and genuinely sincere in making the patient and family feel at ease.

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Emory Transplant Center Giving Back

Swing Easy Transplant Charity Check

(From left to right) Kirk Franz, seen here with two of his daughters, Dr. Tom Pearson, Executive Director, Emory Transplant Center and Chris Dimotta, Emory Transplant Center Administrator.

Every year, National Donate Life Month at Emory is a festive time to honor the donors and donor families who make renewed lives through transplantation possible. This past April was no exception as Emory Transplant Center physicians and staff participated in community events to raise money for two worthy causes – the Georgia Transplant Foundation and Donate Life of Georgia. Both organizations play a major role in helping to support transplant recipients in Georgia.

The Swing Easy Hit Hard golf tournament, held on April 16th at Windermere Country Club, has become an annual Emory tradition. The event is organized and hosted by Emory liver transplant recipient Kirk Franz. Thankful for his liver transplant, Kirk wanted to give back in some way and create awareness about the importance of organ donation. The annual event raises funds for the Georgia Transplant Foundation and Emory Transplant Center. This year’s event raised a total of $14,000 — a stunning increase over the five years the event has been organized by the Franz family.

Emory Transplant Center staff also participated in the second annual Donate Life of Georgia Run 4 Your Life 5K walk/run on April 18th. The event attracted more than 132 runners and transplant enthusiasts.

Emory Transplant 5K

Emory Transplant Center 5K Team

“It was a beautiful and festive day on the Silver Comet Trail,” says Dawn Fletcher, Emory Transplant Center employee and one of the race’s organizers. “We received approximately $6,100 in donations for Donate Life Georgia’s educational programs.” She encouraged the Emory team to dress in blue and green — official Donate Life colors — to get into the spirit.

Both events not only not only raised money for these two worthy causes but also promoted team unity among the Emory Transplant Center family – team they are proud to be a part of.

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.

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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.

Heart to Heart – Celebrating Our Heart Transplant Patients

Harry WuestEach year, Emory heart transplant recipients, their families and our staff and faculty look forward to Heart to Heart, a celebration of renewed lives through heart transplantation and the gift of organ donation. This year, heart transplant recipients from both Emory University Hospital and Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital attended the event on Saturday, February 14th, at the Miller-Ward Alumni House. The Valentine’s Day event was a great success with nearly 200 guests attending.

“We always enjoy seeing the smiling faces of our heart transplant recipients and their families, especially on Valentine’s Day, a holiday celebrating the heart” says Neile Chesnut, Manager of the Emory Heart Transplant Program. “The celebration affirms how important our work is. We love seeing so many recipients doing well and back to their normal lives.”

One of the event’s highlights was getting reacquainted with Harry Wuest, who had the “oldest” heart. In May, Harry will celebrate the 30th anniversary of his heart transplant. Harry received a new heart on May 24, 1985 and was the third patient to receive a heart transplant at Emory University Hospital. At the time, his heart was weakened from cardiomyopathy, which he suffered with for 12 years. He was unable to work and in such bad shape, he spent a month hospitalized in the cardiac care unit prior to his transplant.

With his new heart, this lively 70-year-old is in good health. Harry spends time with his 10 grandchildren, works full-time as a CPA at Bach, James, Mansour & Company in Duluth, and plays a mean game of golf. (“I feed the fish,” he says.)

Harry’s happy story is one of many told time and time again among the recipients at Heart to Heart. It is an honor to know that we, the Emory Transplant Center, might have had a small part to play in the lives of the people there, recipients whose lives were forever changed by the miracle of donation and heart transplantation.

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. 

The Most Precious Gift – the Gift of Life

As a reminder during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, please take a moment to reflect on those who have given the most precious of gifts – the gift of life.

At Emory, each time a patient or their family makes the generous decision to donate his or her organs; a Donor Flag is raised in their honor. The family is then presented with a replica flag as a memento of this most precious gift.

“As the Donate Life flag is raised, what that means to me is it honors those who have graciously made the decision to give life. And it also allows people hope and a second chance with their renewed and active life”, says Kimberly Simpson-Dailey.

In this video, Kimberly Simpson-Dailey remembers her son, Anthony, whose organs were donated when a sudden and rare illness took his life. She reflects on this with a mix of pride and grief. May we remember all of our loved ones this holiday season, honoring their life and the life they have passed on to others.

Truly Thankful – Update on Veteran Police Officer and Altruistic Donor

Raleigh Callaway

Raleigh Callaway and Chris Carroll

As you may remember, it all started with a Facebook post. Raleigh Callaway received a lot of media attention when his wife posted a message on Facebook sharing Raleigh’s need for a kidney. The post resulted in thousands of people contacting the Emory Transplant Center with offers of help. But it was one man from Texas who heard his story, and gave the gift of life – a new kidney. Chris Carroll, who lives near Dallas, says he saw the Callaway family pictured on Facebook with their two children holding a sign that read, “Our Daddy Needs a Kidney.” Chris said he felt divinely led to call to see if he could become a donor.

“I’m just blessed to be able to do it,” Carroll said in one of the many TV interviews the two have conducted after their donor and transplant operations. The media coverage has spread far and wide — from the U.S. to the U.K., Australia and Japan. You can check out some of the stories at these Atlanta outlets: AJC.com, WAGA-TV, WSB-TV, and WGCL-TV.

Carroll’s and Callaway’s surgeon, Dr. Nicole Turgeon, says they are both doing “incredibly well.” Callaway hopes to go back to his job as a police investigator in Greensboro, Ga. in a couple of months to continue to support his family. His community will be glad to have him back on the job.

As we reflect on this Thanksgiving holiday and of all that we are thankful for, let’s remember those who have given the generous donation of life through organ transplantation.

Emory Transplant Center Patients Represent Georgia in the Transplant Games of America

Transplant Games of AmericaThe competition was fierce this summer in the muggy Texas heat as Team Georgia participated in and watched athletic competitions at the Transplant Games of America at Rice University in Houston.

The team had 27 athletes representing six transplant centers from Georgia as well as 32 sports fans cheering on the athletes. The team had three donor family members, four living donors, 19 organ transplant recipients, and one cornea recipient who all brought home a total of 48 medals. Co-captains Joe Stott (heart recipient, Emory) and Sherrell Gay (heart and heart/kidney recipient, Emory) led the delegation.

We are so proud of our Emory Transplant Center athletes that we just couldn’t resist listing their names.

Here were their accomplishments:

Heart Transplant

  • Doug Austin — doubles golf (silver) and singles golf
  • Tim Lamberg — singles golf (gold), doubles golf (silver) and 5K run/walk
  • Joe Stott — singles bowling (bronze), 5K and doubles bowling
  • Richard Walker — mixed doubles tennis (gold), singles tennis, table tennis, and 5K
  • Malia Veator — 5K (gold), 1500m (gold), 100m (silver), 800m (silver), and mixed doubles tennis (gold)

Heart/Kidney

  • Sherrell Gay — cornhole game, table tennis and 5K

Kidney

  • Kevin Schneider (living donor) — singles golf (gold) and trivia games

Liver Transplant

  • Sharon Jean Cyprien — 400m (gold), 200m (gold) and 100m (silver)

Lung Transplant

  • Keith Harris — 5K and singles golf

“We feel our supporters/fans are so important to our wellbeing,” reports Gay, “so I have to mention we had two mascots. Tim Lamburg’s daughter dressed as ‘Peachy’ and Joe Stott’s 84-year-old mother-in-law was ‘Mrs. Peanut.'”

Way to go, Team Georgia!

AJC Features Emory Transplant Center Patients Freed of Type 1 Diabetes

islet transplant patientThe Emory Transplant Center is one of just a handful of institutions around the world performing islet transplants as a type 1 diabetes treatment. Emory is currently the only islet cell transplant program in Georgia, with 19 patients receiving islet transplants to date.

Islet cell transplant is still in the research phase awaiting Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval so the surgery will no longer be experimental. Read a story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution featuring two Emory patients who have been diabetes free for a decade now thanks to islet transplant at Emory.

Learn About Islet Transplants

What Are Islets?
Islets are insulin-producing cell clusters found in the pancreas, which is a six- to ten-inch organ that lies behind the stomach. Each islet cluster is about the size of a grain of salt and contains a few thousand cells. A healthy pancreas has approximately a million islet clusters.
Glucose is the fuel that provides energy to cells. Insulin allows glucose from the bloodstream to enter cells. Without insulin, cells are deprived of fuel, and they begin to starve. As the cells starve, the level of glucose in the bloodstream rises to dangerous levels.
In type 1 diabetes, islets in the pancreas are destroyed by the body’s immune system. Without islets, the body cannot produce insulin. People with type 1 diabetes require several injections of insulin each day. They must follow a strict diet and monitor their blood glucose carefully. Sometimes, even the most diligent patients cannot completely control their blood sugar levels. Diabetes that is very difficult to control is called brittle diabetes.

Why Islet Transplantation?
Islet transplantation can restore insulin production by replacing the islets that have been destroyed. When insulin production is restored, blood glucose levels stabilize, and the health risks associated with low and high blood sugars are greatly reduced.

What Is an Islet Transplant?
The islet cell transplant process begins when islets for transplantation from a donated pancreas become available. During the islet transplantation procedure, the islets are infused into a blood vessel that leads to the liver. The islets from the pancreas are also separated from other cells through a highly complex process called “islet isolation.” The islets are then infused and lodged into the liver of the recipient, where they are able to detect the level of glucose in the blood and produce the correct amount of insulin. Recent advances in islet isolation have resulted in sustained insulin independence in people with type 1 diabetes, which may make islet transplantation more common in the foreseeable future.