Posts Tagged ‘Emory Transplant Center’

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.”

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*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.

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Emory Transplant Center Awarded Grant to Reduce Disparities in Access to Transplant

two peopleThe National Institutes of Minority Health and Health Disparities has awarded $2.6 million over five years to the Emory Transplant Center and six other transplant centers and organizations in the Southeastern Kidney Transplant Coalition. The funding will continue the RaDIANT (Reducing Disparities in Access to Kidney Transplantation) Community Study in Georgia for another five years and expand it to South Carolina and North Carolina.

Emory Transplant Center epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Patzer, director of the transplant health services and outcomes program at Emory, is principal investigator of the grant and Dr. Stephen Pastan, medical director of the kidney and pancreas transplant program, is chair of the Southeastern Kidney Transplant Coalition and a study co-investigator.

“The grant will go a long way to help us expand some of the work we are doing in Georgia dialysis facilities and include North Carolina and South Carolina, with an emphasis on improving patient access to referral for a transplant evaluation,” says Dr. Patzer. “Our prior work showed that our interventions in the RaDIANT Community Study found that referral for transplantation nearly doubled and racial disparities were reduced. Now we will test whether we find similar effects in a larger, regional population.

Georgia and the Southeast have the highest rates of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) of any state or region in the U.S., but the lowest transplant rates. While the Emory Transplant Center has some of the best kidney transplant patient and graft survival rates of any center in the country, too few ESRD patients, especially those who have already started dialysis, are able to take advantage of these benefits. Research published by Dr. Patzer’s group last fall suggested that low rates of referral for transplantation may be the reason so few ESRD patients receive the benefits of kidney transplants. The Southeastern Kidney Transplant Coalition’s goal is to ensure equity in every step of the transplant process, including referral, medical evaluation, waitlisting, and transplantation.

The Emory Transplant Center is a partner in the Southeastern Kidney Transplant Coalition, an academic- and community-based collaboration that shares the common goal of eliminating health disparities that limit access to kidney transplantation among African American ESRD patients living in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. The long-term goal of the coalition is to use community-based participatory research approaches to develop, test and disseminate interventions to improve transplant access.

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about kidney transplant and the Emory Kidney Transplant Program

Your Organ Donation Questions Answered: Takeaways from Our Live Chat

organ-donor260x200Thank you to everyone who joined us for Emory Transplant Center’s live web chat on the topic of organ donation. With April serving as Donate Life month, we wanted to raise awareness around organ donation and answer your specific questions. Lead Transplant Coordinator, Sharon Mathews, MS, RN, CPTC, answered questions about organ donation, including how many people are currently waiting for an organ, what organs can be donated, and who can donate. She also discussed Emory Transplant Center’s living donor and paired donor exchange programs.

Below are just a few highlights from the chat. If you missed this informative chat, check out the full list of questions and answers located on our chat transcript. You may also visit the Emory Transplant Center website for more information. And for more information on how to become an organ donor, visit donatelife.net.

Question: How long can an organ stay viable during transport?

Sharon Mathews: For solid organs, heart and lungs are viable for 4-6 hours, livers up to 12 hours, the pancreas is viable for 12-18 hours and kidneys remain viable up to 24- 30 hours on ice. The goal is to transplant the organs within 8 hours or less of being recovered.

Question: Do you have to be on kidney dialysis before you can be put on the wait list for a kidney?

Sharon Mathews: No, if you have been referred to a transplant center and are undergoing evaluation for transplant, you can have potential living donors call in on your behalf. The initial screening tests can be done at this point in the process. However, you will not become active on the UNOS wait list until your kidney function meets protocol for transplantation.

Question: If my blood type doesn’t match my recipient’s what are my options?

Sharon Mathews: At Emory we are involved with the National Kidney Registry (a paired donor exchange program). In a paired exchange, a donor will donate their kidney to another recipient in exchange for a compatible kidney for their loved one. This can occur on the same day. So while they didn’t walk away with your kidney, they received a kidney that was the best match donor possible.

Currently more than 115,000 men, women and children are awaiting a life-saving transplant. They are in need of organs, tissue, and bone marrow which can all be transplanted if donors were available, giving recipients a second chance at life. Perhaps the most important message from the live chat is the one on the importance of organ donation and how it can have a huge impact on people’s lives.

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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 

Emory Transplant Center Receives Special Visit from Former NFL Player and Kidney Transplant Recipient

transplantThe Emory Transplant Center received a special visit from former NFL player Donald Jones, who received his own kidney transplant in 2013 following kidney disease. On Wednesday, March 16th, Jones visited with faculty and staff at Emory Transplant Canter and then went on to meet with kidney transplant patients at Emory University Hospital. It was quite a delight for our patients.

Jones was a wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills from 2010 to 2012. While playing with the Bills, he began developing high blood pressure and experienced some vision loss. Then the New England Patriots signed him in 2013. But only a few months later, he was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy, a kidney disorder that occurs when IgA, a protein that helps the body fight infections, settles in the kidneys. Treatment for the disorder is dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Jones retired from the NFL in August 2013 at just 25 years old. In December 2013, Jones received a life-saving kidney transplant from his father. Since then, he has been traveling the country raising awareness and fundraising for kidney disease and IgA nephropathy.

Emory Transplant Center faculty and staff had the opportunity to attend a book signing of Jones’ recently published autobiography, The Next Quarter: Scoring Against Kidney Disease. And Emory kidney transplant recipients Robert Burns and Angela Parks, both from Decatur, were delighted to have Jones drop by their Emory University Hospital rooms.

While at Emory, Jones was also interviewed for an educational video about dialysis and kidney transplantation. Rachel Patzer, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of surgery in Emory University School of Medicine and Rollins School of Public Health, recently received funding to develop a video following her research study about kidney transplant rates, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in August 2015.

The study found only about one in four patients with end-stage renal disease in Georgia was referred by a dialysis facility to a transplant center for evaluation within one year of starting dialysis. Patzer hopes the video will educate dialysis patients about transplant as a treatment option and encourage patients to discuss transplant with their providers and family members.

The video, once released, will be distributed to dialysis centers throughout the U.S. that have low rates of transplant or racial disparities in access to transplant.

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about kidney transplant and the Emory Kidney Transplant Program

Gifts from the Heart

event1National Heart Month would not be complete without Heart to Heart, Emory Transplant Center‘s annual fete for heart transplant recipients and candidates, which was on Feb. 20 at the Miller-Ward Alumni House. Sixty heart transplant recipients and eight patients waiting on the heart transplant list — all supported by their family members — celebrated life during the 27th annual Heart to Heart.

The celebrants were at Heart to Heart to show gratitude for their renewed lives made possible by their organ donor families. Each year, the event draws the newest heart transplant patients as well as those who have had their new heart for many years. Three recipients, Earnest Mitchell, Stephanie Harmon and Herbert Kuper were on hand to honor their organ donor families for their lifesaving gifts and meet up with many of their caregivers during the transplant process.

“I give honor and praise daily to my heart donor and his family,” says Mitchell, who was with his wife, Rhonda — newlyweds, really, since they married in 2014. “This date will always be bittersweet, because we understand that this time of celebration for us will always be a time of remembrance for them.”

Mitchell, a Stockbridge resident, is celebrating his one-and-a-half-year anniversary with his new heart. He is pictured above with transplant cardiologist, Rob Cole, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine. After being diagnosed with heart disease in 2006 and then congestive heart failure in 2009, Mitchell and his wife began investigating treatment options for his weak heart. Little did they know that a heart transplant would be his only option for survival.

event3Mitchell was admitted to Emory University Hospital’s coronary care unit (CCU) for constant monitoring and medication to keep his heart functioning while he waited for his new heart. After 139 days in the CCU, he learned a heart was available. He received his transplant on Aug. 15, 2014.

Stephanie Harmon, from Summerville, Ga., received her new heart in Dec. 2015. A surgical first assistant in a Floyd County hospital, Harmon developed breathing problems after an illness in Dec. 2013. An emergency room doctor diagnosed her with heart failure and she was sent by life-flight to Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital, where she spent the next two months hospitalized. She went home with an Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD), a surgically implanted, battery-operated, mechanical pump that sent blood coursing throughout her body.

Eighteen months later, on Dec. 19, 2015, Harmon received the call from the Emory Transplant Center that a heart was available. “I couldn’t believe it, I was in total shock and I couldn’t move,” says Harmon. “My husband instantly started packing our bags.”

Three month after receiving her new heart, Harmon is doing well. Although it is still too early for her to reach out to her donor family, she is very appreciative of the life-saving gift she received.

South African native turned Atlanta resident, Herbert Kuper, developed an abnormal heart rhythm after knee replacement surgery. Doctors determined he had cardiac amyloidosis, or stiff heart syndrome, where clumps of proteins called amyloids take the place of normal heart muscle.

event2Kuper was placed on the heart transplant list, and received his new heart on Feb. 16, 2015. One year later, he is doing well.

“I am so grateful for my heart donor and family,” he reports. “I am also very appreciative of the amazing doctors and nursing staff at Emory University Hospital and Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital that cared for me while I was so sick.”

According to Dr. Cole, “As a heart failure and heart transplant specialist, it is important to celebrate the new lives of our patients each year because of a precious gift they received. It also is important to honor those families who gave selflessly at a time of tragedy for them.”

Giving the Gift of Live: Understanding Organ Donation Live Chat- April 12, 2016

organ-donor260x200April serves as National Donate Life month – raising awareness around organ donation and celebrating those who have given the precious gift of life to another. Currently more than 115,000 men, women and children are awaiting a life saving transplant. They are in need of organs, tissue, and bone marrow which can all be transplanted if donors were available, giving recipients a second chance at life. Understandably, potential donors may have reservations about organ donation.

To get the facts and learn more about organ donation, join Sharon Mathews, MS, RN, CPTC, of the Emory Transplant Center for a live chat on Tuesday, April 12th from Noon – 1PM. She will answer all of your questions about organ donation, including how many people are currently waiting for an organ, what organs can be donated, and who can donate. She will also discuss Emory Transplant Center’s living donor and paired donor exchange programs.

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Belatacept Provides Better Kidney Survival Rates than Current Standard of Care

transplant drugA study of kidney transplant recipients has shown for the first time that the drug belatacept (Nulojix), which controls the immune system and prevents graft rejection, has a better record of patient and organ survival than a calcineurin inhibitor, the current standard of care.

Patients who have undergone kidney transplant are required to take medications to prevent their immune systems from rejecting their new organs. A calcineurin inhibitor (CNIs) is generally used for post kidney transplant patients, but long-term use can damage transplanted kidneys and may lead to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Belatacept acts as a “co-stimulation blocker,” inhibiting one of two signals the T cells need to trigger an immune response. And unlike the currently used CNIs, it is not toxic to the kidney. In fact, it helps preserve the function of the kidney over the long term and is more effective in suppressing antibodies against the kidney, which are important causes of organ loss.

Emory University School of Medicine Dean and kidney and pancreas transplant surgeon, Dr. Christian Larsen, played a key role in developing belatacept, together with Emory Transplant Center Executive Director and Livingston Professor of Surgery, Dr. Thomas Pearson. Belatacept was approved by the FDA in 2011 and is produced by Bristol Myers Squibb.

The study, called BENEFIT (Belatacept Evaluation of Nephroprotection and Efficacy as First-line Immunosuppression Trial), was sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb and began in 2006. FDA approval of belatacept in 2011 was partly based on the first three years of results. Results from the worldwide study, led by Dr. Larsen and University of California San Francisco kidney transplant surgeon, Dr. Flavio Vincenti, were published in the Jan. 28 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The seven-year, multi-center study showed that kidney transplant recipients taking belatacept experienced a rate of mortality and graft loss significantly lower than patients taking a CNI-based regimen. The risk of death or loss of the transplanted kidney after seven years was 12.7 percent for belatacept, compared to 21.7 percent for cyclosporine A.
“While the best uses of belatacept still need additional definition, these results indicate that using belatacept as standard of care has the potential to improve long-term outcomes that matter to patients,” says Dr. Larsen.

Belatacept is given by infusion monthly at a doctor’s office, in contrast to CNIs, which are taken in daily pills at home. Many U.S. insurance companies now cover belatacept as medically necessary for kidney transplant patients.