Patient Stories

Emory Transplant Center Patient Honors the Gift of Life in the 2020 Tournament of Roses Parade

Donate Life Light in the DarknessEmory Transplant Center patient Sherrell Gay was given a second chance at life, twice. On New Year’s Day, Sherrell was able to honor those who gave her the gift of life in the 131st Tournament of Roses Parade. Sherrell, the recipient of two life-saving heart transplants and a kidney transplant, honored her donors and their families by riding on the Donate Life Rose Parade Float.

This year’s float, with the 2020 theme of “Light in the Darkness,” highlighted the power of unity, light and love, as celebrated during Southeast Asia’s Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, a celebration of light shining in the darkness. The float honored 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.

Sherrell is thankful for her donors and their families, and has made it her life mission to be a passionate advocate for organ donation. She is an active volunteer with LifeLink of Georgia, a mentor with Georgia Transplant Foundation and the co-manager of Team Georgia.

“I live every day to the fullest and honor my donors with everything I do. Without them, I wouldn’t have had these bonus years. The experiences allow me to be the face of hope for those waiting for transplant. I am thankful to God for a great life,” says Sherrell.

Sherrell’s Road to Transplant

sherrell gaySherrell Gay married her high school sweetheart, Tony, they bought their dream home in the country and welcomed three children into their world. She retired from nursing to become a stay-at-home mom – a job she took seriously. Sherrell was involved in every aspect of her children’s lives and was active in her church as the organist during services until she was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy in late 1994. Sherrell’s on-the-go lifestyle took a drastic turn as she no longer had the energy to do everyday tasks – let alone the long list of activities in which she was involved. A sudden cardiac episode at home, with only her children present, changed her life and that of her family.

After eight years of living with a sick heart, and six weeks on the national transplant waiting list, Sherrell received the gift of life – a heart transplant in August 2002. She quickly regained her strength and endurance and resumed her normal activities. She was thrilled to meet her donor’s family five years post-transplant, and they have remained in contact ever since. After 10 years, Sherrell’s heart began to fail due to chronic rejection, which also caused her kidneys to fail. She was reevaluated and listed for transplant again. After 17 months on the transplant waiting list, six of which were spent in a hospital, Sherrell received her second heart transplant and a kidney transplant in December 2012. Because of the young men who became organ donors, Sherrell witnessed the marriages of her three children, the birth of her grandchildren — who lovingly call her “Suga” — and now enjoys RV travel, attending music festivals, and family time.

About Emory Transplant Center

Emory Transplant Center offers a comprehensive organ-transplantation program providing clinical excellence and new transplant therapies for patients in need of heart, lung, kidney, liver and pancreas transplants. Based on Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network 2018 data, Emory Transplant Center ranks among the top 12 transplant programs in the nation for overall adult volume, performing more than 9,700 transplants to date.

For more information about the Emory Transplant Center, or to schedule an appointment at any one of our satellite locations, call 855-EMORY-TX (366-7989) or visit emoryhealthcare.org/transplant.

 

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Real Patients, Real Stories: Hear from Two-Time Lung Transplant Recipient

Joseph McCanne was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at just three years of age. That diagnosis began a life-long journey that would ultimately lead to two lung transplant surgeries – with each transplant giving him a new opportunity to enjoy life at its fullest. Hear Joseph’s story as he describes his journey to transplant and how the Emory Lung Transplant Program has impacted his life.

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

“I know firsthand how lifesaving organ donation can be,” says Joseph. “It is a beautiful, wonderful gift and I am thankful.”

Emory Lung Transplant Program

Emory Transplant Center offers the only Lung Transplant Program in Georgia. Our program specializes in the treatment of complex lung disorders and offers the full continuum of high-level care involved in lung transplantation. Performing more than 500 lung transplants, we are at the forefront of clinical excellence, innovative transplant therapies, and outstanding pre- and post-transplant care. Our number one goal is to provide our patients with the unsurpassed, comprehensive care they deserve.

Georgia’s Only Lung Transplant Program: In 1993, Emory established the only lung transplant center in Georgia, with the primary mission of serving Georgia residents suffering from untreatable complex lung diseases. To date, Emory has performed over 500 lung transplant procedures.

Multidisciplinary Team of Specialists: Emory’s team of lung transplant providers is highly skilled in the care of lung transplant patients. Our team of specialists includes pulmonologists, transplant surgeons, cardiologists, transplant coordinators, and nurses, working together to provide superior care.

Commitment to Transplant Research: Our commitment to research, education and patient care is reflected in the success of our program. Emory’s highly regarded team of physicians is at the forefront of lung transplant research. They are currently investigating immune tolerance as well as end-stage pulmonary vascular disease and experimental methods for effective gene therapy.

To learn more about the Emory Lung Transplant Program, visit emoryhealthcare.org/lungtransplant or call 855-366-7989.

Double-Lung Transplant Gives Man New Outlook on Life

Double Lung Transplant Joseph McCanne and FamilyJoseph McCanne was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at just three years old. That diagnosis began a long journey that would ultimately include two double-lung transplants at Emory Transplant Center – with each transplant giving him a new opportunity to enjoy life at its fullest.

Declining Health, Steps Toward Transplant

At first, Joseph was hesitant to consider a double-lung transplant, despite his declining health. His cystic fibrosis was creating several serious health issues, including constant bouts of pneumonia that were sending him regularly to the hospital and lung function that eventually dropped to 13 percent.

It wasn’t until 2009 when he began to envision a brighter, healthier future – and that was all thanks to one person in particular: Kayse, the woman who would become his wife.

“I wanted to stick around a little longer,” he admits.

After years of indecision, he called the Emory Transplant Center and told them he was ready. Joseph was placed high on the transplant list and waited only two weeks. On October 7, 2009, he arrived at Emory for a bilateral transplant.

After a 12-hour surgery, a three-week hospital stay, and one-month recovery at home, he was playing racquetball.

“It was life-changing,” he says. “Climbing Stone Mountain, playing racquetball and tennis, going for a job in the neighborhood – most people take those things for granted, but they were amazing for me. It was a beautiful, wonderful gift.”

A Third Chance at Life

Joseph enjoyed seven years of good health – until June 2016 when he began to feel short of breath during regular activities. He returned to Emory, where he was diagnosed with a fungal infection. The infection was causing the transplanted lungs to suddenly go into rejection.

On March 13, 2017, he underwent a second double-lung transplant, once again performed at Emory Transplant Center.

“Emory has always been there, and they’ve been great,” says Joseph. “The doctors and nurses feel like family. They’ve been very supportive and instrumental to my health since I was 11.”

Now, Joseph is back to the life he enjoys: One that includes hiking, running, working and playing with his children.

“I’m doing things I’ve never thought possible – because of Emory, because of the transplant, and because of the care they provide,” he finishes.

The Power of Organ Donation

Spring is a great time to recognize those who have saved lives through organ donation, with observances and local events, such as National Donate Life Month in April, which encourages Americans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors, and the 2019 Atlanta Kidney Walk in May.

“I know firsthand how lifesaving organ donation can be,” says Joseph. “Having new life after transplantation allows you to do things you could never do. It’s an amazing feeling. It’s a brand new start.”

You can also register to become an organ donor by visiting Donate Life Georgia.

About Emory Transplant Center

Emory Transplant Center has performed nearly 500 lung transplant surgeries through the Emory Lung Transplant Program. Emory is a leader in clinical excellence and in pioneering new transplant therapies. We offer cutting-edge technology and superior outcomes in kidney transplant, liver transplant, lung transplant and pancreas transplant.

Our patients come from all over the nation for our high level of expertise and proven patient outcomes. We are proud to be ranked among the top 12 transplant programs in the nation and have performed more than 9,400 transplants to date.

To learn more about the Emory Transplant Center, visit emoryhealthcare.org/transplant or call 855-366-7989.

Real Patients, Real Stories – Hear from an Emory Kidney Transplant Patient

Devin Gerald, a kidney transplant patient with the Emory Kidney Transplant Program, describes his experience growing up with kidney disease. Eventually in his late teens, Devin’s kidneys started to fail, and he found himself facing dialysis. Devin looked for a living kidney donor for transplant and in stepped his aunt – Regina Kinnie. She was healthy enough to donate her kidney to Devin but there was a problem – her blood type didn’t match his. That’s when Devin and Regina learned about something called the Kidney Paired Donor Exchange Program. Hear their story, and how it has change Devin’s life forever.

Emory Kidney Transplant Program

The Emory Kidney Transplant Program ranks as one of the most prestigious transplant programs in the country. Emory’s team of specialists are highly skilled in the care of kidney transplant patients and living donors. We will work with you every step of the way in your transplant journey.

Experience: Emory performed Georgia’s first kidney transplant in 1966 and has performed more than 5,000 kidney transplants to date – making us a top 10 leading national program.

Commitment to Transplant Research: Emory is at the forefront of kidney transplant research. Our physicians played a key role in the development of Belatacept, a drug that prevents rejection without some of the toxic side effects associated with previously available immunosuppressive agents.

Living Donor Program and Paired Donor Exchange: We offer a well-established living donor kidney transplant program, having performed more than 1,200 living donor transplants to date. Last year, our Paired Donor Exchange Program was ranked the second largest paired donor program in the country through the National.

Real Patients, Real Stories – Hear from an Emory Lung Transplant Patient

Diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis as a baby, Kendra Adderhold struggled to have a normal childhood. Her mother brought her to the Emory Cystic Fibrosis Center for treatment and, until adulthood, things were rather stable. But, after the birth of her son, Kendra’s situation started to change. Her lung function began declining quite rapidly and soon she would need a lung transplant to survive. Hear Kendra’s story as she describes her journey to lung transplant and how the Emory Lung Transplant Program has impacted her life.

Emory Lung Transplant Program

Emory’s McKelvey Lung Transplant Center specializes in the treatment of complex lung disorders and offers the full continuum of sophisticated care involved in lung transplantation. We are dedicated to researching lung disorders and providing the best treatment and care for lung transplant patients.

Emory Transplant Center has the only lung transplant program in the state of Georgia, performing over 450 lung transplant procedures to date. Our goal is to provide patients with end-stage lung disease the unsurpassed care they deserve.

Organ Donation Awareness – 4 Your Life 5K

Emory 5K for organ donation awareness

L–R: Dr. Wedd, Rachel P., Jennifer G.

Emory Transplant Center contributed to organ donation awareness on Sunday, April 23rd by participating in Donate Life of Georgia’s 4th annual Run, 4 Your Life 5K at Piedmont Park. The morning started off cloudy with the threat of rain, but that didn’t prevent Emory’s team of physicians, researchers, and nurses from participating in this important event.

The rain held off as the over 250 registrants crossed the finish line to raise awareness of organ donation and celebrate those who have given the precious gift of life to another. The Emory Transplant team consisted of 15 employees who helped support the cause. They represented clinicians and staff from our liver transplant, kidney transplant, and lung transplant programs, as well as our team of clinical researchers.

Comradery, Awareness, and Passion

Rachel Patzer, Ph.D., MPH, a clinical researcher in Emory’s Division of Transplantation and the Emory Transplant Center, served as captain of the Emory Transplant team. She wanted to pull together a team to build comradery among the Transplant Center staff, as well as raise money for organ donation awareness efforts, something that the Emory Transplant Center firmly stands behind.

Rachel’s work in transplantation is her passion. She has had family members that have been touched by transplant and understands the power of organ donation and how it can save a life.

“I think people who are willing to donate their organs to help save a life are truly amazing individuals – I think it is so inspirational,” says Patzer.

Rachel won 1st place female and placed 4th overall – icing on the cake – second to spreading the message of organ donation awareness.

All monies raised through this annual event are used to assist Donate Life Georgia in its mission to educate Georgians on the need for organ, eye, and tissue donation, and to motivate the public to become organ donors.

And when asked if Rachel is a registered organ donor herself, her answer, “Of course!”

Donate Life of Georgia is one of 50 local non-profit coalitions affiliated with Donate Life America, Inc. and works to spread unified organ donation awareness messaging to Americans about the importance of organ, tissue and eye donation.

Learn more about Emory’s Transplant Center, offering Georgia’s most comprehensive organ transplant program.

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Real Patients, Real Stories – Hear from an Emory Liver Transplant Patient

Simone Whitehead was an active 30 year old, running half marathons and chasing around her 2-year old son. In April 2016, she began to feel ill, and she slowly started getting worse. Tests revealed that her liver was failing, and that she would need a liver transplant. Hear Simone’s story as she describes her experience receiving a liver transplant from the Emory Liver Transplant Program and how she was saved by an exclusive liver dialysis therapy machine called MARS.

Stranger Gives Holiday Gift to Georgia Teen

This time of year, during the holiday season, most people are shopping for family and loved ones trying to find that perfect gift. Well, a 16-year old Georgia teen received that perfect gift from a complete stranger – she received the gift of life.

Kelly Bundick, a 42-year old medical sales rep and single mother of a 5-year old son and a 12-year old daughter, decided to donate one of her kidneys to the Georgia teen. Kelly saw a photo of the teenager on the Callaway Facebook page. You may remember Raleigh Callaway, a kidney transplant recipient who received a lot of media attention when his wife posted a message on Facebook with their two children holding a sign that read, “Our Daddy Needs a Kidney.” They were able to find a donor, and Raleigh had his kidney transplant surgery at Emory. To give back, the Callaway family continues the Callaway Facebook page to spread the word for others who are in need of a kidney and searching for a living donor.

This was the first time a child had been featured on the Callaway Facebook page, and Kelly knew she had to help the teen.

Watch the video below to see how the story unfolds…this truly is the holiday of giving.

Dr. Nicole Turgeon, who performed Kelly’s operation, is Director of Emory’s Living Donor Kidney Transplant Program. The Emory Transplant Center has a well-established program, performing more than 1,200 living donor transplants to date.

“I really cherish the opportunity to work with these donors because they put themselves in harm’s way,” Dr. Turgeon says. “So, I feel a tremendous amount of responsibility to them as well as to the potential recipient.”

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What our Transplant Patients and Families are Saying

patients-wordsEmory Transplant Center is dedicated to partnering with our patients and their families to provide a quality and caring experience. One of the ways in which we track the patient experience is by regularly surveying our patients about the care they received at our facilities. Emory Healthcare works with Press Ganey to conduct a nationally benchmarked, objective patient satisfaction survey.

We are proud to share with you some of the gracious remarks we have received. Our physicians and staff continue to work to improve patient satisfaction and the care experience. Our goal is to respect our patients and visitors, value them as special people, and care about their overall wellbeing. Below are some of the comments Emory Transplant Center has received from our patients:

  • [We are] always greeted by the front desk staff with a smile and “hello.” They are very professional.
  • I’ve been coming to Emory probably over 10 years. [I was] hesitant about coming to a big city hospital at first, but I’ve found Emory to be the best of the best overall. Love my doctor, James Spivey, and my whole [liver] transplant team is terrific.
  • HUGE improvement in the promptness of the registration process.
  • My labs were taken promptly and the phlebotomist was very pleasant.
  • Total redesign from my last visit (clinic). Much warmer, inviting and attractive.
  • Excellent and efficient visit.
  • Dr. Spivey is an excellent caregiver and I am VERY fortunate to have him as my liver transplant doctor. I feel that he genuinely cares about my physical as well as mental well-being. And as busy as I know he is, he makes me feel as if I’m the most important issue at hand during the time we spend together! Not only is he a Great Doc, he’s a Great Guy!!
  • Dr. [Sharon] Graves [transplant nephrologist] is the greatest!
  • The staff are professional and very friendly and patient-oriented.
  • Emory has always provided a level of care that goes a step above and beyond what is required. I would recommend EUH to anyone in need of a health care facility. Emory University Hospital is one of the best in Atlanta.
  • The only tests [I had] performed were an EKG and labs drawn. Both of these services were very professional and an easy experience.
  • The staff always takes great care of me!
  • Service all around was excellent!
  • The lab technicians are wonderful! They are friendly and caring. Very professional and they know you by name. Have never been treated anything but great by these individuals.
  • The transplant center always takes good care of me in every way!
  • Krystal Lee and Dr. [JP] Norvell [liver transplant program] are fantastic!!!

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about Emory Transplant Center

Liver Transplant Recipient Celebrates Silver Liverversary

patient story 8-11On July 2, Terri Willis celebrated her 25th anniversary with her transplanted liver. Over the years, Willis, who lives in Douglasville, has become one of the Emory Transplant Center’s most vocal advocates on the benefits of organ donation and liver transplantation, talking to other transplant candidates and recipients, participating in many transplant events and writing about her experiences on Facebook and blog posts.

“If someone had not said yes to organ donation, I would not be here,” she says.

Willis had her liver transplant at age 13 at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, but she has been an Emory Transplant Center patient since 1999. Her liver failed 25 years ago as the result of a metabolic disorder called tyrosinemia, a genetic defect that causes the immune system to break down the amino acid tyrosine, the building block of most proteins. When tyrosine and other byproducts build up in the tissues and organs, it can lead to nosebleeds, dietary issues, problems with the central nervous system, liver and kidney failure, and hepatocarcinoma. Willis developed tumors throughout her liver, and her transplant saved her life, keeping the cancer from spreading to other organs.

Willis has been running for years to stay in shape, and has participated in five U.S. Transplant Games mostly in track and field events. She is an inspiration to other recipients — to everyone who has ever heard her story.

Willis remains optimistic, even though she is currently experiencing a few issues with her liver and kidneys due to her medications and the age of her organ graft. The road hasn’t always been easy. She had two quickly resolved episodes of rejection in the mid-1990s and one eight-month long episode this year that has been more of a setback. But she keeps her positive attitude and shows other transplant recipients what a little grit can do by continuing to walk and run. “I want other patients to see that they can be active post-transplant,” she says. She ran Douglasville’s Hydrangea Festival 5K road race on June 5 in a specially made t-shirt in celebration of her upcoming liverversary. She gave her finisher’s medal to her longtime transplant hepatologist, Dr. Samir Parekh, who is pictured above with Willis.