Posts Tagged ‘heart transplant’

Sherrell Gay Receives the Gift of Life Just in Time to Witness New Life

Sherrell Gay, Double Transplant Patient

Sherrell Gay

If you remember reading about kidney transplant recipient Ken Sutha and his participation in the U.S. Transplant Games, you might also remember reading about Sherrell Gay, who received her heart at the Emory Heart Transplant Center and also participated in the games. In fact, Sherrell celebrated the 8-year anniversary of her transplant procedure during the Games’ closing ceremonies.

Although Sherrell (who’s originally from Waynesboro, GA) received her first heart transplant a decade ago, for the past 18 months, she has been on the waiting list for another heart due to allograph vasculopathy, a fairly common long-term complication from heart transplant. Allograph vasculoplasty is known more commonly as chronic rejection, which can develop in transplanted hearts at any time – soon after transplant or many years later. The small vessels in the heart become blocked first and as the disease progresses, the larger vessels can become blocked too. “I was diagnosed with allograph vasculpathy at my 7 year annual post-transplant appointment,” Sherrell recalls. “I was treated with medication for 1 ½ years and then the team decided the disease had progressed too far to benefit from drug therapy and I needed to be evaluated for another heart transplant.”

Both throughout her first heart transplant journey and while Sherrell was hospitalized for a portion of 2012, her kidney function continued to decline. “As my wait time continued, my kidney failure worsened, as did my heart function,” Sherrell recalls. Emory’s kidney transplant team was asked to consult on her case, and they concluded that after Sherrell had spent 10 years on immunosuppressants and her kidney function was in decline for almost a decade, her kidneys were in end stage kidney failure. They added Sherrell to the kidney transplant waiting list, knowing that the other option was a potential lifetime on dialysis following her next heart transplant.

Thankfully, Sherrell was contacted about her waiting list status and learned she would be receiving her new heart and two kidneys from the same organ donor. “On the day I got the call there were organs matched for me, I had to start emergency continual dialysis. The organs became available at just the right time,” she says, and “by doing both organs from the same donor, I stood a better chance at successfully living healthy.”

On December 9, 2012, Sherrell received her successful double organ transplant and is now recovering and doing well. Dr. Duc Nguyen performed her heart transplant first, and Dr. Paul Tso performed her kidney transplant immediately after.

While Gay spent much of 2012 at Emory, this mother of two daughters and one son never missed a chance to help cheer up and educate other candidates and recipients and families about the transplant process from her bedside, except, of course, when she was most sick. (At the worst point, she suffered two heart attacks and was placed on emergency peritoneal dialysis.) If such a thing were awarded, Gay would win the Oscar for the Best Advocate Ever for Organ Transplantation.

“I am extremely grateful for my donor family who made the decision to make that donation of life — we got the best gift that day,” says Gay, who also helps lead the Georgia Transplant Foundation Mentor Project.

We are very glad to hear about Sherrell’s remarkable recovery and send her best wishes on her continued recovery and on the upcoming arrival of her first grandbaby. Thanks to her double organ transplant, Sherrell is now well enough to be by her daughter Tracy’s side when she gives birth at the end of March.

The gift of life just in time to witness the gift of a new life; now that is a transplant miracle.

Related Resources:

Emory Heart Transplant Patients Celebrate the Gift of Life!

Heart transplant gift of lifeOur Emory transplant surgeons help facilitate the tremendous gift of organ donation and renewed life by performing approximately 60-70% of all heart transplant procedures in Georgia each year. On an annual basis, approximately 50 new Georgia adults receive heart transplants each year, and recently, over 100 of our Emory Heart Transplant patients and their families gathered together to celebrate this gift of life.

Watch this heartwarming Fox 5 News piece and meet some of our patients whose lives have been changed thanks to their heart transplant procedures.

Emory Transplant Center Performs First Triple Organ Transplant Procedure in Georgia

The team at the Emory Transplant Center has performed more organ transplants in the state of Georgia than any other transplant center. Because the Georgia community trusts the expertise of our transplant team, we have performed some of the most complex transplant procedures in the area. Our team performed the first hand transplant in the state of Georgia and the Southeast, for example, and we’ve performed over half of the multi-organ transplants in Georgia. While you’ve seen us share stories like that of Jo Ellen Kimball and her double lung transplant, multi-organ transplants are rare, making up just over 1% of all transplant procedures conducted in Georgia since 1988. But even more rare, is a double transplant involving a heart and a liver, with only 60 of these procedures having been performed in the U.S. And even more rare, a triple transplant, involving the transplantation of a heart, liver and kidney.

Stephanie Lindstrom

Stephanie Lindstrom

Today, thanks to a triple organ transplant, a 37-year-old mother of two in Georgia is celebrating Christmas with a renewed spirit of hope and thankfulness this year. Just five months ago, Stephanie Lindstrom received a triple organ transplant at Emory University Hospital, the first triple transplant ever to be performed in the state of Georgia.

Following a lifetime battle of congenital heart complications, Stephanie’s condition became critical this summer when she was told she would need not only a new heart, but that she would also need a new liver and kidney. All other interventions to help her were not successful.

“Because of Stephanie’s heart failure, she developed liver failure. Then she became septic, which led to kidney failure. So a triple organ transplant was our only hope to save her,” says Stuart Knechtle, MD, professor of surgery at Emory University School of Medicine and director of the Adult Liver Transplantation Program.

Stephanie, a former marathon runner, was born without a tricuspid valve, which helps move blood through the heart in the right direction. She had four surgeries as a child to repair the problem. After she graduated from college, more heart valve problems occurred, but this time, with her mitral valve. Doctors diagnosed Stephanie with mitral valve regurgitation and said it needed to be corrected.

Stephanie, who lives in South Carolina, scheduled an appointment with Wendy Book, MD, associate professor of medicine at Emory and medical director of Emory’s Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program. “When I first met Stephanie, I immediately knew she was a resilient, strong willed person who was a fighter,” says Dr. Book. “We knew her heart and liver were in bad shape because of her congenital complications, but problems with her kidney had not yet surfaced.”

In September 2011, Stephanie was placed on the waiting list for a heart and a liver. In May 2012, she contracted cytomegalovirus, and was admitted to the hospital to be put on dialysis and breathing machines. At that point, she was moved up on the waiting list for her new organs, which now included a kidney.

On July 7, 2012, doctors got the call that a match had been found for Stephanie. On that day, both her heart and liver were transplanted during a lengthy surgery.

First Brian Kogon, MD, surgical director of the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program transplanted her new heart, assisted by David Vega, MD, director of Emory’s Heart Transplant Program. Then Knechtle and transplant surgeon Andrew Adams, MD, transplanted the liver. The following day, Knechtle transplanted her kidney. All three organs came from the same donor.

“The risks for a triple organ transplant are very high for a patient with a three-system failure, and one we had never attempted before,” says Kogon. “Her previous surgeries and critically-ill state at the time of the transplants made things challenging. But Mrs. Lindstrom’s age and determination to survive made her an ideal candidate for these procedures.”

Stephanie spent the next three months at Emory University Hospital recovering, while battling complications. She was able to return home in October 2012, five months after she was admitted.

“I am so grateful to the doctors, nurses and support staff who made these transplants possible,” says Stephanie. “They have given me a new lease on life. The holiday season has truly taken on such a special meaning to my family and me this year because of the many gifts we have been given.”

Emory Heart Transplant Patient Shares the Love

Lester Crowell

Lester Crowell

Not many people can say they’ve had multiple hearts in their lifetime, but one grateful Emory Transplant Center patient can and is now working to make it possible for others to say the same.

On Sunday, July 17, over 400 guests attended the first annual “Angels of Life” Hair and Fashion Show held by Three-13 Salon, Spa and Boutique of Marietta. The event raised over $31,000 for the Georgia Transplant Foundation and was planned by Lester Crowell, Emory patient and managing partner of Three-13 Salon, to help fellow transplant patients and to commemorate the salon’s 37th anniversary.

According to Crowell, Three-13 Salon has a strong history of philanthropic work, from donating to Ronald McDonald House to volunteering their time for the Cobb County School Systems. But after undergoing his second heart transplant, the business’s managing partner decided he ought to focus on something very close to home: transplant patients.

“It was fantastic for our first event,” Crowell said. “I think we raised a lot of awareness about transplants and organ donations.”

The event took place at the Cobb Energy Centre and consisted of a silent auction followed by a hair and fashion theatrical show featuring products sold by Three-13 Salon. Several transplant patients shared their testimony of how their lives were changed through organ donors. Both Dr. Andrew Smith, MD, Clinical Chief of Cardiology for Emory University Hospital, and Dr. David Vega, MD, director of Emory’s Heart Transplant Program, spoke on stage in support of Crowell, their patient, and his cause.

For Crowell, his own journey towards a heart transplant began when he was 13. What started as recurring chest pains grew into an illness called Idiopathic Hypertrophic Subaortic Stenosis (IHSS) with serious consequences. He began seeing doctors at Emory University Hospital when he was 19 and was told he had a runaway heart.

“My heart would speed up for no reason. It was a congenital defect,” Crowell said. Several family members have struggled with the disease, but not all have opted for heart transplants.

“I thought it was sort of a good thing I didn’t have to dress up for PE anymore,” Crowell said. “I didn’t have to run the laps…that’s all I thought about.” But his condition continued to worsen.

“If I didn’t eat anything, I wouldn’t have chest pains. I got very used to not eating all day long until the end of the day,” he explained. Doctors told him he had cardiomyopathy when he was in his 30’s. At age 40, he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

“By the time I was 43, I couldn’t talk and breathe at the same time. That’s when I got my first transplant,” Crowell said.
Nine years later, his transplanted heart developed chronic rejection, a common occurrence in transplanted organs. After waiting almost a year for another heart, Crowell underwent a second transplant on December 4, 2010. This time around, he was more prepared.

“I knew what to expect, so it sort of seemed easier,” Crowell said. Since receiving his third heart, life has continued as usual. “I’m not in fear of having a heart attack every day,” he said. “I’m living a normal life.”

The two-time transplant patient said he was fortunate to have insurance to help pay for his transplants and treatment, but he knows that this is not the case for everyone. Through Three-13’s annual “Angels of Life” Hair & Fashion Show, Crowell hopes to continue gathering donations for the Georgia Transplant Foundation so the charity can continue to help others obtain a second or, like Crowell’s case, a third chance at life.