Posts Tagged ‘Emory Transplant Center’

Changes to the UNOS Kidney Allocation System

Organ Donation Wait TimeThe Emory Transplant Center would like to share with our transplant community some important changes to the kidney allocation system managed by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). As many of you know, UNOS manages the nation’s organ transplant system and helps make the best use of donated organs. More specifically, the UNOS Kidney Committee had been meeting regularly to discuss an improved kidney allocation system which resulted in the UNOS Board of Directors approving a new kidney matching system that took effect on December 4, 2014.

Under the previous system, how long a person had undergone dialysis prior to being placed on the wait list did not count. But with this new system, it has changed.

“One of the major differences is that now you will be given credit for your dialysis time that will be added on to the time you’ve been on the waiting list,” says kidney transplant surgeon Dr. Nicole Turgeon of the Emory Kidney Transplant Program.

If you began dialysis before you were listed, your wait time will be backdated to the day you began dialysis. Dr. Turgeon says the new guidelines could really help many longtime dialysis patients.

Here are some important points to note with the new system:

  1. The time you spend waiting for a kidney is still a major factor in organ matching.
  2. You will not lose credit for any time you have already spent waiting.
  3. If you began dialysis or met the medical definition of kidney failure at the time you were listed for transplant, your waiting time will not change.
  4. If you began dialysis before you were listed for a kidney transplant, the time between beginning dialysis and being listed will be added to your waiting time.
  5. People who have the longest potential need for a transplanted organ and those who have been difficult to match under the current system will receive greater priority under the new system.
  6. The new system should provide more transplant opportunities, so that everyone has a better chance to be transplanted.

“It is big news for our patients. I think it’s really going to help them in terms of getting better access to transplants,” says Dr. Turgeon.

UNOS continues to monitor the system closely to make sure it is meeting the needs of patients. For more detailed information about the new kidney allocation system, visit the UNOS website at www.unos.org.

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.

Transplant Patients: Protect Yourself Against the Flu

Flu Shots for Transplant PatientsWith winter only a few months away, flu season is rapidly approaching. Because transplant patients have a chronic disease and/or are now taking anti-rejection medicine, they are at an increased risk of getting the flu.

The flu, or influenza, can be deadly for transplant patients. Research has shown that flu vaccination is the most effective way to reduce complications and deaths related to influenza.

If you had your transplant at least three months ago, it’s time to roll up your sleeve and get protected now. If you have not hit three months yet, be sure to ask for the shot during your three-month follow-up visit. To protect yourself even further, others in your household should also get flu shots or FluMist (NOTE: Transplant patients should have an injectable vaccine (a shot) only and not the FluMist).

Please be advised that it may take up to two weeks after getting vaccinated to build up your protection, so sooner (after three months post-transplant) rather than later is best. As a reminder, for egg-allergic individuals, there is a non-egg-based flu vaccine so you, too, can be vaccinated. Talk to your doctor or coordinator to learn more.

If you have an appointment at one of the Emory Transplant Center outpatient locations (Clifton Road, Emory Saint Joseph’s, Acworth, Dublin or Savannah) in November or December, be sure to get your flu shot when you are there. If you do not have an appointment with the Emory Transplant Center, please go to your local physician, a public health clinic, or a local pharmacy or grocery store that is giving flu shots, and roll up your sleeve.

Make a commitment to get your flu shot to ward off the flu this year. We are all getting ours to protect you as well.

Remember, we’re all in this together.

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!

Takeaways from Dr. Turgeon’s “Kidney Swaps and Emory’s Paired Donor Exchange Program” Live Chat

Thank you to everyone who joined us during Donate Life Month for the live web chat hosted by Emory Transplant Center transplant surgeon, Dr. Nicole Turgeon. Dr. Turgeon discussed the different kinds of living organ donation, the process for living donation and even shared an inspiring video of one of her patients who had benefitted from Emory’s Paired Donor Exchange Program. Chat participants also had questions about islet cell transplantation for type 1 diabetes, which Dr. Turgeon answered with some great information on the 10th anniversary of two of our patient’s islet cell transplants and being diabetes free! Perhaps the most important message from Dr. Turgeon was one of the importance of organ donation and how it can make such a huge difference in people’s lives. For more information on how to become an organ donor, visit donatelife.net. Check out more of Dr. Turgeon’s answers by reading the chat transcript!

Below are just a few of the questions and answers from the Emory Transplant Center’s live chat:

Question: How many kidney transplants do you perform at Emory every year?

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

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.