Posts Tagged ‘Emory Transplant Center’

Proposed Redistricting for Liver Transplant Sharing Negatively Impacts Georgia and Southeast

liver-250x250A proposed redistricting policy in the regional structure for liver transplant distribution may have a negative impact on the state of Georgia and the region.

Currently, the demand for liver transplants exceeds the supply of liver donations nationwide, and many patients with liver disease will die while on the waitlist to have this life-saving surgery. To decrease the disparity in wait times for liver transplantation in the U.S., the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), with the support of the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR), is proposing to change the current liver allocation distribution. This plan proposes to share donor organs more broadly in an attempt to reduce geographic disparities.

But experts at the Emory Transplant Center say the proposed changes would:

  • Drive up costs.
  • Decrease survival rates.
  • Lower the quality of donated organs because of a longer travel time to the intended recipient.
  • Extend the recovery period for the patient.
  • Exacerbate disparities in health care suffered by minority and rural communities.

The Southeast already faces substantial health-related disparities, including less insured patients, fewer available doctors and higher rates of liver disease overall.

The proposed redistricting will take organs from the South, which already has multiple barriers to liver disease care for minority, low-income, and rural patients, and send them to the Northeast, which has a much higher rate of listing liver disease patients.

Currently, the U.S. is divided into 11 regions. Georgia is in Region 3 along with Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Puerto Rico. Within Region 3, livers are shared across state lines for patients with a MELD (Model of End Stage Liver Disease) score greater than or equal to 35. A MELD score is used to determine a patient’s place on the liver transplant waiting list. A higher MELD score means a higher mortality rate. Because some patients’ disease is poorly reflected by MELD alone, they may be granted an “exception score” to make them competitive for organs. Certain regions, however, grant these exceptions more freely, so that patients’ average scores at transplant may differ greatly between regions.

The new proposal would change the 11 regions to eight districts, with Georgia in District 1. The new district would expand up the Atlantic Coastline and include South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, DC, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, as well as Puerto Rico. Within this district, livers would be shared across state lines for patients with MELD scores equal to or greater than 29.

We feel the new proposal will have a negative impact on patients waiting for liver transplants in Georgia and across the Southeast. Emory prides itself on our commitment to our patients. In transplant, this commitment includes a dedication to maintaining availability of donor livers for patients most in need. For more information about liver transplants in Georgia and the Southeast and what you can do to help, visit the Collaboration for Donation Fairness website.

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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Emory Leads Research on FDA-Approved Drug in HIV Positive Patients Receiving Kidney Transplants

pearsonEmory Transplant Center will soon begin enrolling patients into a new clinical trial that will test an FDA-approved drug in HIV positive patients receiving a kidney transplant. The research study will evaluate the safety and tolerability of a drug that blocks the CCR5 receptor. The CCR5 receptor is an entry point that allows HIV into the cells of the immune system. The drug being studied, generic name maraviroc, is an antiretroviral drug that helps block the virus from entering these cells. It is currently FDA-approved for the treatment of HIV infection.

Emory will be one of ten centers across the U.S. that will be play a part in this study. A total of 130 participants with well-controlled HIV infection (must be on an antiretroviral regimen for at least three months) will be randomized into one of two study groups. In the first group, patients will receive maraviroc, with the second group receiving a placebo. Neither doctors nor patients will know if the kidney recipients are receiving the study drug or the placebo (known as the standard of care). Up to 11 participants will be enrolled at Emory.

This $1.6 million research study for all 10 sites combined is supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases ( Identifier: NCT02741323).

“When it comes to transplanting organs in HIV positive patients, it is known that these patients have more rejection and more severe rejection than non-HIV transplant recipients,” says Thomas Pearson, MD, DPhil, professor of surgery, and executive director of the Emory Transplant Center. “This is likely because their immune systems are dysregulated and some components are overactive. This may contribute to the high rate of transplant rejection.” Dr. Pearson is the principal investigator of the Emory clinical trial.

CCR5 blockade is currently used in combination with other drugs to control HIV infection, but it has not been studied at the time of transplantation in HIV positive individuals.

“This clinical trial will help us better understand the drug’s effects on renal function at 52-weeks post-transplant and if the drug can have a dual effect in controlling the HIV infection and improving kidney transplant outcomes,” explains Dr. Pearson.

All study participants will receive immunosuppressive medications following their transplant, as any transplant patient would. Participants will be followed for up to three years after transplant.

Watch Dr. Pearson on WSB-TV discussing this clinical trial.

National Kidney Registry Awards Emory Transplant Center Coordinator for Quick Actions

Dr. Nicole Turgeon (left) and Sharon Matthews (right)

Dr. Nicole Turgeon (left) and Sharon Matthews (right)

The National Kidney Registry (NKR) has awarded Sharon Mathews, Lead Coordinator of Emory’s Living Donor Kidney Transplant Program, with its Grace Under Pressure Award. The NKR’s medical board voted for Mathews and a transplant coordinator from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, to receive the Grace Under Pressure Awards for their careful maneuvers and quick actions that led to a series of successful kidney transplants last summer. The NKR presents this award to an individual or organization that goes beyond what is expected and takes extraordinary measures to accelerate the practice of paired donor kidney exchange, resulting in the facilitation of more successful transplants.

The series of events began in July 2015 when a Good Samaritan donor started the chain in Madison, Wisconsin. The donor wanted to altruistically donate her kidney sometime in a five-day window so that she could recover in time for her college classes to start in the fall. The NKR identified a four-way swap that included a 14-year-old kidney transplant candidate at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Doctors accepted the donor’s offer, Emory’s HLA lab completed physical crossmatching and the NKR finalized the swap logistics. All seemed ready to go.

A week before the scheduled surgeries, the paired donor in position 3 of the four-way swap decided against donating. The planned recipient of this kidney was an adult patient at Emory Transplant Center. So the centers quickly identified a “repair” option — the donor in position 2 could step in and donate a kidney to the position 3 candidate. Emory’s HLA lab performed a virtual crossmatch for the candidate. But then a few days before surgery, the candidate’s donor developed an elevated liver enzyme count and was ruled out. The centers identified a second repair option using virtual crossmatching and quickly solved this problem.

“Both of our centers [Emory and UW-Madison] worked hard to save the entire swap through the challenges that unfolded in the last several days before the scheduled transplant,” says Mathews.
Thanks to Mathews and her team’s hard work and the generosity of the altruistic donor in Madison, the swap began as planned, and the patient at Children’s received a living donor kidney. And at the end of the chain, the Emory waitlisted patient received a well-matched transplanted kidney as needed.

Mathews received the award on behalf of her team at the NKR’s Season of Miracles awards gala in New York City on May 4. “I dedicated my award to the entire Emory team that helped make these transplants successful, and I thanked my husband for his support,” says Mathews. “Living donor swaps/exchanges require tremendous coordination and expertise by our HLA lab, transplant surgeons, nephrologists, anesthesiologists, transplant clinic staff, bedside nurses, and O.R. staff. They all made it happen.”

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.

Emory Transplant Center’s Living Donor Wall Has 85 New Names

new namesWe are proud to announce that 85 new names have been added to the Emory Transplant Center Living Donor Wall. Spanning one entire wall of the Transplant Center, the Living Donor Wall made its debut in 2007. Since its premiere, we are happy to report that we have had to expand it a total of three times, with additions made in 2009, 2011 and 2013. Today, the wall displays nearly 500 selfless individuals who have donated organs along with the relationship they have to their recipients.

This is just another reminder of how much the Emory Living Donor Kidney Program has grown in recent years. In addition, it is a testament to the amazing life-saving and life-enhancing gifts our living donors make to transplant recipients.

Our Living Donor Wall pays tribute to the individuals named there as tangible depictions of the ultimate gift given to another.

The next time you visit Emory Transplant Center, please take a moment to view the Living Donor Wall and acknowledge those who have given the gift of life.


Emory Liver Transplant Patient Celebrates One-Year Liver-versary

UntitledAll of our patients are pretty special, but there is something extraordinary about a liver transplant recipient who comes all the way from Gaffney, S.C. to host a party to thank the medical team who cared for her while she was at Emory Transplant Center.

Evonne Leland received a lifesaving liver transplant on April 22, 2015. She came back on the same date one year later — this time in good health — to celebrate what we at the Emory Transplant Center like to call a one-year “liver-versary.” A former restaurant owner, Leland, with help from her family and friends, organized a lunch to thank Emory Transplant Center staff and physicians. It was a true celebration of life.

“Before I came to Emory,” Leland says, “I was told there was nothing I could do; I had only six to nine months to live.”

Throughout the mid-1990s, Leland had one medical issue after another, resulting in many visits to doctors. In 2001, Leland learned she had an abnormal finding on her liver, and by 2009, her liver began to fail. In 2014, Leland was diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and placed on the liver transplant waitlist in Charlotte, NC. Due to her health status at that time, she had to be taken off the list. She subsequently sought a second opinion at another hospital in North Carolina, but she was told her cancer was out of the criteria for a transplant there.

Leland then made a call to Emory Transplant Center and was able to make an appointment right away with the Emory Liver Tumor Clinic. “Mrs. Leland came here on April 2, 2015 and because we have a multidisciplinary clinic, we were able to arrange for the right specialists to evaluate her and obtain the necessary imaging studies to evaluate her liver cancer,” says Dr. Anjana Pillai, a transplant hepatologist and director of the Liver Tumor Clinic. “She was able to see the specialists she needed and we were able to make the decision to admit her that same day and expedite her liver transplant evaluation.” The Emory Liver Tumor Clinic was opened three years ago and has coordinated a multidisciplinary team of transplant hepatologists and surgeons, medical oncologists, palliative oncologists, interventional radiologists, and advanced practice providers to care for HCC patients.

Leland received her transplant only three weeks after her first visit to Emory. It has been a difficult road over the past year, but she is an example of how the Emory Liver Tumor Clinic’s multidisciplinary team works with each patient with HCC, or tumors originating in the liver, to determine a care plan that is best for him or her. Leland has made a remarkable recovery.

“I am so grateful for my transplant,” Leland says. “When so many doors were closed, Emory opened one for me.” Dr. Joe Magliocca, surgical director of the liver transplant program, was her surgeon.

The Emory Liver Tumor Clinic treats patients with HCC, which often is the result of cirrhosis, or liver scarring, from chronic liver disease and decompensation. Patients with early-stage HCC and cirrhosis treated with liver transplantation have a five-year survival rate of 75%, compared to only 25% to 30% without a transplant. HCC is a growing problem in the U.S.

According to Leland, “It was so nice to see the staff again now that I am so much better. I get up in the morning, and I can hold up my hands and they work. I can get out of bed and my legs work. And I don’t have to be on dialysis any more. I am so happy at what I can do. Each milestone is so very important. I’m getting there!”

Hidden Gems: Emory Transplant Faculty & Staff Spotlight

Emory Transplant Center would like to showcase our hidden gems – the faculty and staff that have made an impact in the field of transplantation. Rachel Patzer, PhD, MPH, is an epidemiologist researcher in Emory’s Division of Transplantation and the Emory Transplant Center. Her research focus has been on health disparities and access to solid organ transplant. She is currently the principal investigator of a major National Institutes of Minority Health and Health Disparities study, RaDIANT (Reducing Disparities in Access to Kidney Transplantation) Community Study in Georgia that we featured in a previous blog post.

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 I want my legacy to be just that I made some difference in peoples lives,” says Dr. Patzer. “The patients who are willing to donate a kidney to help save a life are truly amazing individuals – I think it is so inspirational.”

Watch this video to hear from Rachel and how working in the field transplantation affects her.

The Powerful Gift of Organ Donation – A Lung Transplant Recipient’s Story

More than 120,000 individuals are waiting for for a transplant. Alice Koone, an Emory lung transplant recipient was one of those people.According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), there are currently more than 120,000 individuals waiting for a transplant. One organ donor can save up to 8 lives, and sadly, 22 people die every day waiting for some type of transplant.

Alice Koone, an Emory lung transplant recipient was one of those individuals awaiting a life-saving transplant.

Alice was in desperate need for a double lung transplant due to severe complications with breathing. At a Talladega Superspeedway race in 2007, she remembers not being able to walk more than 20 feet without having to stop to rest because her lungs were so damaged.

In Jul 2007, Alice was place on oxygen, but her condition didn’t seem to be improving. On Sept. 13, 2007, three months after being placed on the lung transplant waiting list, she received a call that would change her life – she would receive a lung transplant that day with the Emory Transplant Center.

Neile Chesnut, an Emory heart transplant coordinator, said most people don’t understand how important it is to become an organ donor. Liver, heart, lungs, kidneys, pancreas and small intestine are among organs that can be donated.

Chesnut says one of the best parts of working with pre- and post-transplants patients includes getting to know the individuals as they wait, sometimes several months, for a transplant.

“I feel like they are my family,” said Chesnut.

A year after receiving her transplant at Emory University Hospital, Alice wanted to write a “thank you” note to her donor family, but she could not go through with it.

“How do you thank somebody for this?” she wondered.

But on her second transplant anniversary, she finally wrote that letter to the donor family. Alice, now 54, spends time with her baby grandson and volunteers as a mentor for the Georgia Transplant Foundation.

“I’m able to do a lot of the things I thought I would never be able to do again,” she said. “We are able to travel, camp, hike and just enjoy life. You are thankful for everyday that you get.”



*Blog adapted from story written by Marisa Stout. Marisa is a senior at the University of Georgia majoring in public relations. Her passion for transplant stemmed from her grandfather’s need for a heart transplant. He received his life-saving transplant at Emory in 2004, and is doing well today.

Marisa says, “I wrote this piece because I feel as a college student writing a piece on organ donation, I can send a message about this important cause to my generation.” And of course, Marisa is an organ donor herself.

Emory University Hospital Transplant Nurses Receive National Recognition

daisy-250x250In honor of National Nurses Week, the Emory Transplant Center would like to recognize two Emory University Hospital transplant nurses who recently received national recognition.

Gem Comrie, a nurse on Emory University Hospital’s transplant unit (7G), has been awarded the DAISY Award, a national recognition program for nurses. Rommel Buenvenida, also a nurse on 7G, received a DAISY Award nomination. Their unit director, Tiffany Banks, recently commended them for their exemplary service to transplant patients. They both have earned credentials as certified clinical transplant nurses from the American Board for Transplant Certification.

“The DAISY Award is a national award bestowed upon extraordinary nurses who provide optimum care to the patients they serve,” says Banks. “Gem is a sensational transplant nurse who takes pride in her work and profession. I am extremely proud of both Gem and Rommel, since they represent the core of who we all are as Emory nurses.”

The DAISY Award — the acronym stands for Diseases Attacking the Immune SYstem Award — is a program started by the DAISY Foundation in 2000 by the family of Patrick Barnes who died at age 33 from complications of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), an autoimmune disease. The family, incredibly impressed by the exemplary nurses who cared for him, developed award programs to honor and celebrate direct-care nurses, nursing faculty and nursing students from across the globe. The DAISY Award programs partner with organizations to provide recognition of nurses’ clinical skills and compassion to patients and families. The programs are tailored to each hospital’s unique culture and values, providing resources to help implement the awards.