Posts Tagged ‘kidney transplant’

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!

Related Resources:

From Kidney Transplant to Gold Medal

100,000 People are Waiting for a Kidney. Learn More About Emory’s Paired Donor Exchange Program

Paired Donor Exchange ProgramDid you know that there are nearly 100,000 people on the kidney transplant waiting list? With the average wait time for a kidney now at four years, patients are often eager to seek other options to waiting on a deceased donor kidney so that they can get back to living a healthy life. Fortunately, with today’s medical advances, a living or a deceased person can donate a kidney.

The Emory Transplant Center launched its Kidney Paired Donor Exchange Program in 2010 and has been participating in the National Kidney Registry since 2012. Join Nicole Turgeon, MD, associate professor of surgery, Emory University School of Medicine and surgical director of the Paired Donor Exchange Program on April 8 for an online live chat to learn how paired donor exchange works, what it takes to become a donor and how paired donor exchange is helping patients dramatically improve their quality of life.

Chat Sign Up

Emory Transplant Center Coordinator, Juanita Conner – Dedicated to Helping Patients

Juanita Conner, a nurse since 1984, is a Kidney Transplant Coordinator with the Emory Transplant Center. Prior to joining Emory in 2008, Juanita worked in various roles as a nurse and case manager, earning certifications in case management, health care quality and nephrology nursing. It wasn’t until her role at Emory that all of her experience, education and expertise came together.

Kidney Transplant Coordinator, Juanita Conner

Juanita Conner, Kidney Transplant Coordinator
Photo via Leita Cowart, AJC.com

“This work [as a Kidney Transplant Coordinator] allows me to use all my nursing background and skills. I have found my niche,” says Juanita Conner, RN, BSN, MPA, CCM, CNN, CPHQ, CCTC.

Juanita chose to work with chronic kidney disease patients because they have options, and she believes she can help them the most.

“It’s a population I’m passionate about, and kidney disease is an epidemic in this country, especially in the South,” she said.

An estimated 26 million adults in the United States have chronic kidney disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This can lead to end-stage renal disease (ESRD) or kidney failure.

From a Life of Giving to Giving the Gift of Life

Michael (Mike) Beller wanted to make a real difference in the lives of others. He didn’t want to help just one person, he wanted to help as many people as he could. So Mike decided to altruistically donate one of his kidneys, which was the kickoff to a kidney transplant chain that has effected people in Atlanta to Wisconsin and beyond.

As the son of missionaries in Mexico, Mike grew up believing he had the responsibility to give back. He currently serves as Chief of Investigations for the Chamblee Police Department, and formerly served as an Army ranger. He is also the father of 5 children.

“It’s amazing,” says transplant surgeon Dr. Nicole Turgeon, “he’s lived a life where he has been giving, to his family, to his job and to his country.”

Last winter Mike started thinking abut donating a kidney. He found an article on the internet about the National Kidney Registry.

“There are 90,000 people in this country that need a kidney and there’s 1000s of them every year that die without one”, says Mike.

The National Kidney Registry matches people who need a kidney and have a willing donor who is not a match for them, with someone who is a match; therefore, connecting together a chain of transplants with p aired donors across the country.

In paired donation, an incompatible donor and recipient pair is matched with another incompatible donor and recipient pair, and the kidneys are exchanged between the pairs. By giving their kidneys to unknown, but compatible, individuals, the donors can provide two or more patients with healthy kidneys where previously no transplant would have been possible.

Mike decided he wanted to be the person to start one these chains.

“If he gave to one person, that would be great but this would allow him the possibility to maybe help two, three, five, six, and in some chains we see even up to 50 or 60 people involved,” says Dr. Turgeon.

On August 1st, Mike donated his healthy kidney that was immediately flown by passenger jet to Madison, Wisconsin to save the life of a recipient. Mike’s gift would then trigger another transplant in Pennsylvania, and then another in South Carolina and so the chain goes on.

Two and a half weeks later Mike returned to work and is doing well.

Says Mike, “I can’t think of anything else you could do that could help another human being this effectively.

Mike’s story was recently featured on Fox 5 News. You can learn more about this tremendous gift by watching the video below:

Related Resources:

Emory Transplant Center Supports the National Kidney Foundation

The Emory Transplant Center helped support the annual National Kidney Foundation Atlanta Walk, a fundraiser that benefits many of our patients in a multitude of ways. This year’s Team Emory, which walked in memory of the late Meg Jeffrey for the third year in a row, raised more than $6,000 for the NKF Atlanta Walk 2013, which was held on June 8. The team contributed the third largest amount out of 163 Atlanta teams participating in the event — quite an accomplishment.

“Thank you to everyone who helped make this possible with a donation of money or time,” says Team Emory’s coordinator, Jennifer Everett-Kitchens, physician assistant in the abdominal transplant programs. “My family and I are so proud to have helped organize this year’s NKF walk.”

Emory Transplant Center Team

Emory Transplant Center Team 2013
(Not shown are Satrina Hill, RN, manager of the Outpatient Transplant Clinic, and Nicole Turgeon, MD, who arrived a little late. She had just finished performing a transplant that morning!)

One of the walk’s most ardent supporters was John Fox, Emory Healthcare president and CEO, who supported Team Emory at the Silver level sponsorship. Chick-fil-A provided breakfast for walkers again this year. Dawn Fletcher, senior manager for clinical services and operations for the kidney program, and her daughter Lexi raised $300 during a bake sale.

“The Atlanta Walk has been an uplifting, team-building experience for the past three years,” Everett-Kitchens says. “The walk is an important ETC tradition that my family and I intend to continue to participate in, and we hope more of you will be able to join us next year.”

“We had several patients join us for the walk this year, which was really fantastic,” wrote ETC executive director Dr. Thomas Pearson in an email thanking walkers. He and Dr. Stephen Pastan, medical director of the kidney transplant program, were co-chairs of the walk again this year. “I hope that those of you that weren’t able to join us this year will be able to come next year. The walk has been a great opportunity to gather outside of work, and enjoy each other.”

“For those of us who knew Meg, worked with Meg, or were touched by her in any positive way, we can be certain that countless people across the state of Georgia are alive and healthier today in part because of her efforts and caring spirit,” Dr. Pearson continued.

Related Resources:

Emory Transplant Center Takes Part in Second Largest Kidney Swap in History: 28 people Now Have a New Lease On Life

Kidney swap patients Troy Milford & Robert PooleAs a former pastor, Troy Milford had spent years counseling his congregation through the joys and challenges of their lives. But, as it turns out, he was quietly dealing with a challenge of his own.

In 1997, he was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease. Though he felt well on dialysis, he knew he’d eventually need a kidney transplant. In 2010, he was placed on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. Several of Troy’s family members were tested in hopes of donating their kidney to him, but they were not matches. Troy’s friend and parishioner, Robert Poole was then tested, but he wasn’t a match either. That’s when Robert (pictured right with recipient Troy Milford) learned about the Kidney Paired Donor Exchange Program at Emory University Hospital.

“Emory began its Kidney Paired Donor Exchange Program in 2010, and we have been participating in the National Kidney Registry since 2012,” says Nicole Turgeon, MD, associate professor of surgery, Emory University School of Medicine and surgical director of the Paired Donor Exchange Program. “Paired donor exchange gives patients an opportunity to receive a living donor kidney transplant from a loved one or friend, despite incompatible blood types and positive crossmatches. In paired donation, a donor and recipient are matched with another incompatible donor and recipient pair, and the kidneys are exchanged between the pairs. This was the case with Mr. Poole and Mr. Milford, and the basis of how Chain 221 worked.”

Map of Kidney Transplant SwapTroy and Robert are now part of the world’s second largest kidney swap in history, and the largest kidney swap to be concluded in less than 40 days. Named “Chain 221” by the National Kidney Registry, the chain involved 56 participants, which facilitated 28 transplants in 19 transplant centers across the country, including the Emory Transplant Center. A Good Samaritan donor, also known as an altruistic donor, initiated Chain 221 in Memphis on April 30, 2013, and the chain ended just five weeks later, on June 5, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Both Troy and Robert underwent surgery on April 30 at Emory University Hospital. That day Troy received his new kidney, while Robert donated his kidney to another person half way across the country, also in need of the new organ. Both men are doing well after their surgeries.

“Words can’t say how it made me feel that Robert, who’s not even related to me, would do this for me,” says kidney recipient Troy. “I am one of 28 people who has a new kidney, and a new outlook on life, thanks to this swap. That’s what God can do. He can work miracles.”

“Troy is a good friend and special person,” says Robert, who manages a golf course in Canton. “He was too proud to ask for help, even when he was sick, so I am really happy I could assist. It didn’t matter to me if I gave to someone I knew or to someone across the country. I was just thrilled to donate on behalf of Troy.”

According to Dr. Turgeon, there are currently more than 100,000 people on the kidney transplant waiting list. The discrepancy between the number of organs available and the number of people on the waiting list continues to grow. “Ultimately we want to bring awareness to living and deceased donation with this story,” Turgeon explains.

Since the Kidney Paired Donor Exchange Program began at Emory, the hospital’s surgeons have performed 27 kidney transplants. The Emory Transplant Center is the state’s largest transplant center performing the highest volume of kidney transplants in Georgia. In 1966, Emory performed the first Georgia kidney transplant. To date, the Emory Transplant Center has performed more than 4,300 kidney transplants, with 247 kidney transplants performed in 2012.

Visit the Emory Kidney Transplant Program website for more information on the Emory Paired Donor Exchange program.

Related Resources:

Six Lives Connected through Paired Donor Kidney Exchange

Living Organ DonationThe Emory Transplant Center played a role in a 6-chain kidney swap that will forever bind 6 individuals.  Maya Cosola wanted to donate a kidney to her aunt but was not a compatible match.  So she agreed to be a part of paired donor kidney exchange program that allows incompatible donor and recipient pairs to be matched with other incompatible donor and recipient pairs, allowing kidneys to be exchanged between these pairs. A match between pairs was arranged, and Maya’s kidney was flown to someone in North Carolina, and thus began the 6-chain exchange across 4 states.

Share their touching story in this video from Fox 5 below:

Visit the Emory Kidney Transplant Program website for more information on the Emory Paired Donor Exchange program.

Related Resources:

Emory Transplant Center is a Top 10 Transplant Center in the U.S.

Living Organ Donation Donate Life MonthThe latest data from OPTN/UNOS of adult organ transplants performed in 2012 show that the Emory Transplant Center performed 426 transplants, making it the largest transplant center in the state and the 10th largest in the country. If we add the 60 pediatric transplants performed at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the ETC is the 5th largest transplant center in the country.

Of course, the ETC is much more than these numbers, but volume is one indication of just how busy our center is — and our programs are growing. In 2011, Emory performed 360 adult and 70 pediatric transplants. That means the total number of transplants increased 13% from 2011 to 2012. Each program is growing, too. The kidney program expanded from 204 transplants in 2011 to 230 in 2012, and the liver program grew from 93 transplants in 2011 to 111 in 2012. There were 11 kidney and pancreas transplants at the ETC in 2011 and 17 in 2012. The heart team transplanted 23 in 2011 and 34 in 2012, and the lung program transplanted 29 in 2011 and 34 in 2012.

This accomplishment never would have been possible without the gracious gifts of life organ donors provide to our transplant recipients. We are ever grateful to the donors who have indicated their wishes and the families that have made the decision to donate and save or restore the lives of our patients.

Related Resources

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.

Related Resources

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: