Patient Stories

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.

Complete Stranger Gives the Gift of Life to a Georgia Police Officer

It all started with a Facebook post…Raleigh Callaway, a veteran Georgia police officer and patient of the Emory Transplant Center, needed a kidney transplant. Desperate to find a match as he entered the late stages of renal failure, he and his family turned to social media to find a potential donor.

The Callaways’ posted a message on Facebook sharing Raleigh’s need for a kidney and a donor. The post resulted in more than 900 people contacting the Emory Transplant Center – one of whom was Chris Carroll, a health care consultant and grandfather from McKinney, Texas. He saw the post and suddenly felt compelled to give.

After going through extensive testing to see if Chris would be a match for Raleigh, the kidney transplant surgery was performed Thursday, September 25, 2014. Emory doctors said that Raleigh and donor Chris both did “incredibly well” following the operation. Chris was discharged from Emory University Hospital on Saturday, and Callaway is expected to be discharged from the hospital on Monday.

Chris was among hundreds who contacted Emory wanting to help. Dr. Nicole Turgeon, Emory transplant surgeon who performed the operation, credits the power of social media for not just saving Raleigh Callaway’s life, but potentially many more. Of the hundreds who contacted Emory, more than 125 people are still being considered for transplant surgeries to other patients. This generous act will continue to give to other patients.

Check out the video below to learn more about this incredible story!

Happy Update – Worth the Wait

Just a few weeks ago, we told you about 23-year-old college student Kayla, who was in desperate need of a heart and kidney transplant. After weeks waiting in the hospital on the transplant list, Kayla received the ultimate gift — new heart and kidney. Learn more about Kayla’s happy ending – and plans for her new beginning — by watching this FOX 5 news segment.

Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5

Kayla’s Wait

For the more than 100,000 people in the United States on the list waiting for an organ transplant, life is a waiting game. Unfortunately, it’s a game Kayla is playing for the second time.

The 23-year-old college student received her first heart transplant when she was just a baby, and although her donor heart has far outlasted predictions, Kayla now needs a new heart and also a kidney.

Watch this Fox 5 news segment to learn more about Kayla’s story.

Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5

Related Resources:

Emory Transplant Center
The Gift of Organ Donation
Takeaways from Dr. Turgeon’s “Kidney Swaps and Emory’s Paired Donor Exchange Program” Live Chat

Catching Up with Kidney Transplant Recipient Ken Sutha

Sutha1As we continue to celebrate National Donate Life Month, we love to get and give updates on some of our patients. When we last told you about kidney transplant recipient Ken Sutha, he had just won three medals – two gold and one silver – at the 2010 National Kidney Foundation (NKF) U.S. Transplant Games. Sutha, who received a donor kidney from his father, competed in the 100-yard medley, 50-yard butterfly, 100-yard backstroke, and 500-yard freestyle events. Ken also has completed in triathlons.

Ken’s success goes well beyond athletics, though. After his transplant, Ken received a four-year academic scholarship from the Georgia Transplant Foundation, which helped support his education through graduate and medical school. After graduating from Emory University School of Medicine last summer, he moved to Seattle where he has been in training as a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital and the University of Washington. While enjoying life in the Pacific Northwest, he’s been caring for many different kinds of kids, including some who are awaiting transplants or who already have had transplant.

“I’ve been getting involved in transplant and donation awareness organizations out here, but I do miss everyone back at the Georgia Transplant Foundation and the Emory Transplant Center,” says Sutha. “Before my transplant, I would have never imagined the direction my life could take. I am so grateful to the transplant community for giving me the opportunity to succeed in many different aspects of my life!

Related Resources:

From Kidney Transplant to Gold Medal

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

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

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.