Posts Tagged ‘kidney transplant patient’

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!

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From Kidney Transplant to Gold Medal

Kevin Jordan and Coach Tom Still Hitting Homeruns

Kevin Jordan Wake Forest Kidney Transplant at Emory

The gift of giving is rewarding on many levels. Giving doesn’t have to be monetary or flashy; in fact, taking the extra step to register and give the gift of life can be the most rewarding gift ever.

Take for example two of our patients, Kevin Jordan and Coach Tom Walter. In 2011, Kevin was diagnosed with ANCA vasculitis, an autoimmune disorder that typically leads to almost immediate kidney failure. At the time, Kevin was an all-star baseball player being actively recruited by both Wake Forest University (WFU) and Auburn University, but he was faced with an illness that could potentially change his future, not only in baseball, but in life. Kevin opted to join the crew at Wake Forest, but as his condition worsened, it became clear to both Kevin and Coach Tom that something would need to be done.

With only a 15% chance of a non-family member making it through the organ transplant matching to donation process, Coach Tom stepped in, armed with a goal and a healthy kidney to donate , he got tested to see if he was a match to serve as Kevin’s donor. The chances of Coach Tom’s kidney being a viable option for Kevin were slim, but… what if? Coach Tom proved to be a viable organ donor for Kevin, and without hesitation, he agreed. You can read more about their story here.

After going through with the transplant, both Kevin Jordan and Coach Tom Walter are doing fine. So great, in fact, that they recently came back to Atlanta with the rest of the Wake Forest Baseball team, who was in town to take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets! It seems that Kevin and Coach Tom truly continue to hit the ball out of the park!

April is National Donate Life Month, register today to be an organ donor and give the lasting gift of life.

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Kevin Jordan Returns to WFU Baseball Practice After Kidney Transplant

Kevin Jordan Wake Forest Kidney Transplant at EmoryIn February of this year, we shared with you a story of two amazing people, Kevin Jordan, a 19-year-old Wake Forest University baseball player, and his coach, Tom Walter, aka Coach Tom. To bring you up to speed, Kevin was diagnosed with ANCA vasculitis, an autoimmune disorder that typically leads to almost immediate kidney failure. At the time, Kevin was an all-star baseball player being actively recruited by both Wake Forest University (WFU) and Auburn, but he was faced with an illness that could potentially change his future not only in baseball, but in life. Kevin opted to join the crew at Wake Forest, but as his condition worsened, it became clear to both Kevin and Coach Tom that something would need to be done.

Kevin was in desperate need of a new kidney, and when neither his mother nor father met matching criteria to serve as a living donor, Coach Tom volunteered to be tested as a match. A match he was, and the story is pretty much a fairytale from there. Just months after joining the Wake Forest crew, Kevin and his coach would share a lifelong bond, making them family both on and off the field.

Kevin and Coach Tom came to Emory for the living donor kidney transplant, where transplant surgeons Dr. Kenneth Newell and Dr. Allan Kirk performed the procedure that not only gave Kevin renewed hope in life, but renewed hope that he would indeed return to the baseball diamond.

Fast forward seven and a half months later to today, Kevin is back and in good health, and the outfielder just attended the first Wake Forest Fall baseball practice of the year. Kevin’s recovery was not the only thing that’s proven to be speedy. Kevin ran the 60 yard dash in just 6.5 seconds, proving he has regained his health, strength, and speed. Kevin’s journey has struck a chord with people around the country, including those in the transplant community and sports communities. ESPN film crews attended the first WFU baseball practice of the year to share his progress with the country.

Our own Emory family members, particularly those who helped facilitate the kidney transplant from Coach Tom to Kevin have been equally touched and inspired by the story. “Kevin is a remarkable human being. And I think that’s one of the centerpieces of this story,” Dr. Allan Kirk, one of Kevin’s transplant surgeons said at the post-transplant press conference back in February. His recovery since that day has been equally as inspiring and remarkable, “when Kevin came to us, he was in bad shape, but he never lost hope. What he went through could have very easily derailed his plans. He’s a fighter. Coach Tom saw that in him, and so did we. Both myself and Dr. Newell have been touched to play a part in helping Kevin return to the sport that he loves, and in bringing a coach, player, team and community together to rally around someone who is truly a remarkably inspiring person. We’re very much looking forward to seeing what he accomplishes in the years to come,” remarks Dr. Kirk.

Read more on Kevin’s journey & his kidney transplant.

Hope for Kidney Transplant Patients Confirmed with FDA Approval of Drug Discovered at Emory

After decades of research and testing, the FDA approves belatacept, and a new class of transplant drugs first discovered by Emory doctors.

Back in September, Dr. Christian P. Larsen, Director of the Emory Transplant Center, shared a story with you here on our blog about belatacept, a new medication that was being studied to determine its ability to help block the immune system from graft rejection after kidney transplants. It’s been less than a year since we shared that story on belatacept with you, and since that time, the FDA has now approved belatacept for use for that exact purpose.

Christian Larsen, Emory Transplant Center Director

Dr. Christian Larsen, Director of Emory Transplant Center

Dr. Thomas Pearson

Dr. Thomas Pearson, Surgical Director, Kidney Transplant Program

Since the early 1990s, Emory surgeon-scientists Christian P. Larsen, MD, DPhil and Thomas C. Pearson, MD, DPhil have been searching for ways to promote immune tolerance of a transplanted organ. In collaboration with other Emory researchers and researchers at Bristol-Myers Squibb, they played a leading role in discovering belatacept and driving its development. The recent FDA approval of use of belatacept is the first time a new class of drugs has been developed for transplant since the 1990s.

So what led to this approval of a new class of drugs? From a research perspective, in the 1990s, Larsen and Pearson found that CTLA4-Ig, a fusion protein of which belatacept is a modified type, could control graft rejection in mice, but found that it didn’t work as well in non-human primates. Bristol-Myers Squibb researchers then developed a panel of hundreds of modified forms of CTLA4-Ig, and sifted through the mutated proteins to find two that could make CTLA4-Ig bind tighter to its target and work more effectively. Larsen and Pearson then showed that the enhanced version could prevent graft rejection in a non-human primate model for kidney transplant at Yerkes Research Center.

Once the determination was made that modified versions of the CTLA4-lg fusion proteins could work to prevent graft rejection on primates, belatacept was developed and tested. In two parallel studies with more than 1,200 participants over two years, patients taking belatacept had similar graft survival rates to those taking the calcineurin inhibitor cyclosporine, while maintaining higher kidney function and lower blood pressure and cholesterol. In addition, belatacept can be given every few weeks, in contrast to calcineurin inhibitors, which must be taken twice a day.

There is still room for improvement, though. Compared with cyclosporine-treated patients, belatacept-treated patients had a higher rate of early acute rejection – a temporary flare-up of the immune system against the donated kidney. However, in most cases the acute rejection was successfully treated with drugs and did not lead to graft failure. The Emory Transplant Center team is researching approaches to reduce this risk.

“Our goal is to achieve a normal life span for kidney transplant patients, and have them survive dialysis-free,” Larsen, Director of the Emory Transplant Center, says. “We believe belatacept can help us move toward that goal.”

Clinical trials are now also being conducted to determine if belatacept will have similar positive outcomes on liver transplant and pancreatic islet transplant patients.

For more information on belatacept, you can check out the video below. If you have additional questions, leave them in the comments for Dr. Larsen or Dr. Pearson and we’ll make sure they see them and give you a response!

For more information on the FDA’s approval of belatacept, visit: http://shared.web.emory.edu/whsc/news/releases/2011/06/fda-approves-transplant-drug-that-preserves-kidneys,-avoids-toxicity.html

One Good Transplant Deed Leads to Six Changed Lives

Imagine waking up one morning in good health and deciding out of the goodness of your heart to donate your kidney to someone you didn’t even know – anyone, anywhere. That’s exactly what Jon Pomenville of Anderson, SC, did recently. Little did he know, it would result in the drastic change of the lives of six individuals and their families.

Jon wasn’t looking for credit. In fact he was completely comfortable with remaining anonymous throughout the process. But during a recent visit to Emory University Hospital for a post-surgical follow-up, Jon met many of the individuals whose lives were changed – right there in the transplant clinic waiting room. Jon and four of the other donors and recipients in what is referred to as a paired kidney transplant were coincidentally scheduled for follow-up appointments within a short period of time of one another. It was only a matter of minutes before the patients – recipients and donors – two father and son combinations and Jon, the man who would give to anyone – were hugging, shaking hands, and recounting their lives and experiences. As one person began recounting the experience, eyes and ears began to focus on the tale being told from across a crowded room.

The Emory Transplant Center opened its Paired Donor Kidney Exchange Program in 2009, providing greater hope for patients in need of kidney transplants. A paired exchange donation is a process that allows healthy individuals to donate a kidney to either a friend, loved one, or even altruistically to a stranger, as was the case with Jon, despite incompatible blood matches. In paired donation, a donor and recipient are matched with another incompatible donor and recipient pair and the kidneys are exchanged between the pairs.

Paired donation is another form of living donor transplantation, which means the donated organ may come from a living person such as a friend, spouse or family member. Donated kidneys also come from recently deceased donors. While most kidneys from deceased donors function well, studies have shown that a kidney from a living donor, either a blood relative or an unrelated person, provides the greatest chance for long-term success.

Because of Jon’s donation, a young 7 year-old boy named Zion received a life-saving kidney from an unrelated donor because his dad, Mike, was able to donate. And Gerald Smith of Five Points, AL, received his life-changing kidney transplant because his son, Matt, a recent University of Alabama graduate, donated his kidney – to Zion. And lastly, 20 year-old Edward Hill of Macon, GA a young man with a history of health challenges, would also receive his kidney transplant (from an unknown donor) at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta – completing the six-person cycle.

6 Person Paired Kidney Exchange

The decision Jon made to altruistically donate his kidney to a any person, anywhere set off a chain reaction that has drastically improved and changed lives. As the mother of one kidney recipient put it, “when we received that call a few weeks ago, it truly was a miracle. The donor program at Emory is an incredible thing that will help many people like my son, and I am as thankful as anyone could ever be because of it.”

The donor program at Emory is incredible, but without people like Jon Pomenville, and generous selfless acts of kindness such as his decision to donate his kidney, stories like this would not be possible. For more on this amazing story and the lives touched by Jon’s decision to donate, watch our short video below:

Emory Team Member Shares Living Donor Story in Honor of Donate Life Month

Pamela Emory Employee Living Donor

Pamela poses in front of a picture of her with her sister at Emory University Hospital

Lots of big news in the Emory transplant world as of late. We performed the Southeast’s first hand transplant, our 300th lung transplant, and most of you probably heard about the touching story of Wake Forest University baseball player, Kevin Jordan, and his coach, Tom Walter, who came to Emory to participate in a living donor kidney transplant. This last story, more than any other, has brought a tremendous amount of awareness around the notion of living donor transplants. April is Donate Life Month, and as such, we thought it appropriate to highlight another touching living donor transplant story, this one, between a member of the Emory family, Pamela Lesane, and her sister. We recently interviewed Pamela, who works for Emory Healthcare in Guest Services, about her journey as a living donor.

Morgan: Pamela, thanks so much for helping us promote awareness of living donor transplants. Tell us, where did your journey as an organ donor begin?

Pamela: My sister has suffered with kidney disease ever since she was born. At the time of the transplant she was suffering from both high blood pressure and kidney disease. After I started at Emory, I came into contact with a transplant coordinator who asked me if my sister had ever been evaluated for a transplant. She had not yet been evaluated, and a few weeks later my sister came to Emory and was placed on the waiting list. I asked to be the first one tested as a possible donor candidate. It turned out I was a match and the rest is history.

Morgan: What was the actual donation and transplant experience like for both of you?

Pamela: It was a blessing to finally be able to help my sister after watching her suffer her whole life with kidney disease. My sister often tells me that it’s like her life has started fresh since the transplant.  Her recovery time was short, only about 2 weeks, and she was able to notice an improvement in the way she felt within just a couple of days. Overall it was a wonderful experience for the both of us and brought us even closer than we already are.

Morgan: You mentioned you and your sister are closer now, specifically, how has the organ donation and kidney transplant affected your relationship with your sister?

Pamela: While my sister was on dialysis she was never able to travel as she had to come into the hospital three times a week. After the transplant, we were able to reach a new connection as we were able to travel and spend more time together. We have always been close but through the whole transplant experience we grew closer and are now able to spend more time together, which is wonderful.

Morgan: That’s wonderful to hear. Would you serve as her living donor again? Do you have any regrets?

Pamela: If I could go back in time I would do the transplant over and over again. I have absolutely no regrets, I was able to better my sister’s quality of life and we became closer as a result.

Morgan: Do you now encourage other people to consider being a living organ donor? If so, why?

Pamela: I do encourage other people to consider donation because it truly gives one individual the opportunity to provide someone with a second chance and a new lease on life. Especially if that person is a loved one, the satisfaction of being able to help a family member or friend get a fresh and healthy start to life is a wonderful feeling.

Morgan: How has working in health care changed your awareness and comfort levels with organ donation?

Pamela: If I hadn’t started working at Emory, I would never have come into contact with the people who made the transplant possible. Working in the health care field made me feel more at ease with the whole transplant process, because it was my peers who were looking out for both myself and my sister. I was able to listen to the doctor with a high level of comfort and was able to easily move forward with the transplant. That’s part of why sharing this story was so important to me. I realize that not everyone has the opportunity I did to be informed of the possibility of being a living donor. If you know someone in need of a transplant, it’s certainly worth looking into.

Morgan: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about the experience?

Pamela: I would just like to thank the Emory community and specifically the transplant team because they truly changed my sisters life and our relationship.

If you have questions for Pamela, or would like to comment on her tremendous story, please use the comments field below.

Knocking the ‘What Ifs’ Out of the Park

Georgia native and Wake Forest University baseball player’s life saved by Coach Tom, Emory Transplant Center, and divine intervention.

Kevin Jordan Wake Forest Kidney Transplant at Emory

Wake Forest University baseball coach Tom Walter and Wake Forest student athlete Kevin Jordan, with Dr. Alan Kirk, the Emory Transplant Center surgeon

We can find a reason in almost every situation to ask, “what if?” But what if, we didn’t? What if instead, we took a more active role in doing the right thing regardless of chance? Sometimes, it’s the ‘what ifs’ in life that prove to reveal a clear purpose in hindsight, and that’s exactly what’s been demonstrated in one of the most amazing stories we here at Emory have witnessed.

One year ago, while still a senior at Northside Columbus High School in Columbus, GA, Kevin Jordan was diagnosed with ANCA vasculitis, an autoimmune disorder that typically leads to almost immediate kidney failure. Kevin, an all-star baseball player who, at the time was being actively recruited by both Wake Forest University (WFU) and Auburn, was faced with an illness that could potentially change his future not only in baseball, but in life.

When faced with life-altering barriers, many of us give up– not Kevin. Despite his diagnosis meaning days that were previously filled with class and practice would now also need to accommodate 11-12 hours attached to a dialysis machine, he displayed the same courage and passion he is known for on the field. The same courage and passion that led Wake Forest University baseball coach, Tom Walter, to extend an offer to Kevin to continue his student-athlete career at WFU.

Despite circumstances, Kevin didn’t give up. He accepted the offer to attend Wake Forest and in doing so, immediately became part of a family he previously didn’t know existed. A family that would prove to play a role so fundamental to Kevin’s life that from it, a true genetic/medical connection would be established.

During his time at Wake Forest, Coach Tom noticed that Kevin’s strength and speed on the field had begun to deteriorate since high school. What hadn’t, was his “sweet swing” of the baseball bat. Kevin was clearly being impeded by his condition, but continued to attend practice with his team daily. He knew each day he would return to his dorm to spend the next 12 hours with his dialysis machine, but he kept his head up.

At this point, Kevin was in desperate need of a kidney. After both his mother and brother failed to meet matching criteria to serve as living donors, he didn’t have very many options. And that’s where Kevin’s second family comes into play. As much as he does his own two daughters, Wake Forest’s Coach Tom considers each and every player he’s ever coached to be part of his own family. Not even a year into Kevin’s time at WFU but already part of the family, Coach Tom himself volunteered to step up and be evaluated for a kidney donor match.

With only a 15% chance of a non-family member making it through the organ transplant matching to donation process, the chances of Coach Tom’s kidney being a viable option for Kevin were slim, but… what if? Coach Tom proved to be a viable organ donor for Kevin, and without hesitation, he agreed.

As if the family connection wasn’t already strong for members of the Wake Forest baseball team, it just got a whole lot stronger. After completing the living donor transplant from Coach Walter to Kevin on Monday, Emory’s Dr. Newell and Dr. Kirk have established an official medical bond between family members at WFU. Today, Kevin, Coach Tom, and doctors Newell and Kirk spoke on the results of the procedure and just two days after the transplant, both Kevin and Coach Tom were bright eyed and hopeful for things to come.

Coach Tom was asked at the recent press conference, what if one of his daughters needs a kidney transplant in the future and serving as the donor is no longer an option? In his response, we saw the same strength of character that Kevin has demonstrated all along. Coach Tom remarked that much like you can’t live your life as a hermit for fear you might be in a car accident upon leaving the house, so too we cannot live our lives in fear of ‘what ifs’.

Coach Tom previously served as head coach of the University of New Orleans (UNO) program and during his time there is when Hurricane Katrina hit. Coach Tom looks at his experiences with his UNO family in the same way he does his experiences at WFU and he attributes them to some form of divine intervention. More than anything, this story teaches us to stop questioning and worrying about ‘what ifs’ and to instead focus on doing the right thing, assuming you will be given the opportunity at the right time.

A combination of strength of character and a multitude of elements of chance for Kevin mean that instead of facing a lifetime of hardship, he has just 8 weeks of recovery time ahead of him. And if his past is any indication of his future, he is sure to continue as he has in the past– with passion and ambition to overcome even the most trying circumstances. And with any luck, he’ll be back on the diamond with his coach and family in no time.

View the video of today’s press conference with Kevin Jordan, Coach Tom, and the Emory Transplant Team.

From Kidney Transplant to Gold Medals

Ken Sutha National Kidney Foundation U.S. Transplant GamesBack in 2006, at the age of 24, Ken Sutha received his living donor kidney transplant at Emory. His donor was none other than his own father. Four years later, not only has Ken made remarkable strides in his overall health, but even more amazing, he has gone from a non-athlete to a world class swimmer.

Ken practices each day after class at Georgia Tech, where he’s a student in the Emory and Georgia Tech MD/PhD program. Recently, his practice paid off in a big way. Back in August, Ken returned home from Madison, Wisconsin where he was a participant in the 2010 National Kidney Foundation (NKF) U.S. Transplant Games.

Representing Team Georgia, Ken competed in the 100-yard medley, 50-yard butterly, 100-yard backstroke, and 500-yard freestyle events. A tremendous feat for someone who underwent a life changing transplant. What’s even more impressive? Ken left the NKF U.S. Transplant Games with two gold medals and one silver medal. However, it was not the medals, but the experience, that left a lasting impression on Ken.

“My favorite part of the Games was meeting other recipients, living donors, and donor families,” Ken notes. “One of our Emory recipients, Sherrell Gay, celebrated her eighth anniversary of her heart transplant at the closing ceremony on Tues., Aug. 3,” he continues. “She competed in table tennis this year.”

Ken is a shining example that those who undergo solid organ transplants are able to return to a normal high-quality life, and often, can achieve a level of health they never reached prior to transplant. In addition to swimming, Ken competes in sprint triathlons to stay in shape. His last sprint was at the Rock ‘N Rollman Triathlon in June in Macon, GA. We will continue to keep you posted on Ken’s remarkable achievements.

Or, if you’re interested in learning more about the games or kidney transplant from Ken, please leave your questions in the comments below. Ken will be responding to any questions you have for him!