Posts Tagged ‘kidney transplant’

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.

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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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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.

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For Ed Mann & Felicia Henderson, It’s a Small World After All

Ed Mann Felicia Henderson Living Donor Kidney Transplant

Ed Mann and Felicia Henderson on a recent visit to the Emory Transplant Center.

As a physical education teacher, every day Ed Mann helps keep the children of Mount Zion Elementary School in Carrollton, GA in tip-top-physical condition, but ironically, his own health has been suffering for the past three years. In 2009, Ed was diagnosed with scleroderma, an autoimmune disease that resulted in a decline in his heart and pulmonary health initially, but then, took a toll on his kidneys. As a result, six hours of every one of Ed’s days was spent undergoing dialysis treatments. And despite his declining health and ongoing medical needs, he still didn’t missed a single day of work.

After seeking a kidney donor via traditional methods to no avail, one day a few months ago, Ed had an idea that he called “a shot in the dark,” but it was a decision that proved to be much more than that. Ed posted a message on Facebook, “Just a little advertising. Still need a kidney. 404-712-4450.”, which is the phone number of the Emory Kidney Transplant Program. A shot in the dark turned into an even more unlikely set of circumstances when the person who answered Ed’s call for help was not only a fellow employee at Mount Zion Elementary, but also Ed’s longtime friend of 16 years, Felicia Henderson.

Not knowing whether she would be a match for Ed, “I just called the number,” recalls Felicia. And after undergoing the necessary testing, the team at the Emory Transplant Center confirmed that Felicia was indeed a match to be Ed’s kidney donor. Upon receiving the news, Felicia immediately committed to being Ed’s donor, “People that are able to give a kidney live longer than the average person, not because they have given a kidney, but because they were healthy enough in the first place to be able to do it.”

Because of Felicia’s gift of life, Ed will continue to coach and teach the children of Mount Zion Elementary how to stay physically fit. “The gift of life. I know I’ve got so many good friends. Very thoughtful, very kind.”, he says.

Felicia and Ed’s transplant operation took place exactly two months ago today, on November 16, 2012. Since the surgery, both Ed and Felicia are doing well. They spent time with their families over the holidays celebrating renewed health and the gift of life, and have both returned to work at Mount Zion Elementary.

When we asked Ed if there is anything he would like to say to Felicia, he told us, “Yes. I would like to tell her thank you for saving my life. You are the most thoughtful and kind person I know, and I appreciate what you did for me.”

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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.”

Help Us Honor Nurse Allison Batson and Her Gift of Life – Vote Today!

Nurse Allison Batson, Patient Clay Taber

Nurse Allison Batson with Clay Taber

Every once in awhile, you meet someone so special that they become part of you forever. For 23-year-old Emory kidney transplant patient Clay Taber, that person is Allison Batson – literally.

A few months ago, we told you the story of a transplant nurse at Emory University Hospital, Allison, and her selfless donation of one of her kidneys to Taber last January, a gift that likely saved him months on dialysis — if not his life. Allison and Clay met when he was an inpatient at Emory University Hospital fighting a rare disease called Goodpasture’s Syndrome, a life-threatening autoimmune disorder characterized by kidney disease and lung hemorrhage. Allison saw more than a patient in Clay.  She saw her own children, all close to Clay’s age.

“I learned more about Clay, his family, his life, what he saw for his future,” Allison recalls. “He wanted to get married to his sweetheart. He’d just graduated from college. The whole world was his, with the exception of this incredibly rare illness that hit him out of the blue. I have children his age, and I felt the same kind of pain his mother was feeling. Something inside me said I needed to do more.”

Though Clay’s blood type is rare, Allison was tested to be a donor and proved to be a match. On Tuesday, January 10th, Allison’s kidney was removed and transplanted into Clay’s body. Nearly half a year later, Clay has recovered well, even finding a weekend in June to marry his college love.

Though Allison has never asked for special treatment or even a hint of recognition, her colleagues recently submitted her profile to Johnson  & Johnson’s Amazing Nurses Contest. She was selected as one of 10 finalists. Voting is now up to the public. If Allison wins, she’ll receive a trip for two to Los Angeles to attend the 2012 CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute live broadcast show, courtesy of CNN.  Though a trip to sunny LA is quite a prize, Allison has a bigger gift in mind.

“I am once again humbled by this nomination and very excited to be recognized,” says Allison. “But more than that, my hopes for this contest are that it will spread the word about the Living Donor program.  There are more than 90,000 Americans on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. That’s 90,000 too many. Relatives, loved ones, friends and even strangers can give this lifesaving gift.”

To vote for Allison, visit http://www.amazingnurses.com. Voters can cast one vote per day until Sept. 28. The winner will be announced December 2 at the CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute live broadcast.

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Kidney Patients Can Now Receive Pre- and Post-Transplant Care Closer to Home

Emory Transplant CenterBeginning in May 2012, the Emory Transplant Center will provide pre- and post-transplant services for renal patients in northwest Georgia at our new location in Cartersville. Along with our two existing satellite offices in Savannah and Dublin, the new office in Cartersville means that more Georgians can receive kidney transplant evaluations and follow-up care from Emory professionals without making a trip to Atlanta.

Emory’s Kidney Transplant Program:

  • Provides comprehensive evaluations for kidney and pancreas transplantation, as well as state-of-the-art transplant follow-up care
  • Offers a highly skilled team of specialists in the care of kidney transplant patients and living donors
  • Ranks as one of the top programs of its kind in the country, with success rates higher than expected for both patient and graft survival*
  • Performed 215 kidney transplant procedures in 2011 – the largest number of transplants in a single year in the history of the program

Emory Kidney Transplant Program Satellite Locations:

Emory Transplant Center –  Cartersville
(located in the Emory Heart & Vascular Center office)
970 Joe Frank Harris Parkway, Suite 280
Cartersville, Georgia 30120

Emory Transplant Center –  Dublin
(located in the Emory Heart & Vascular Center office)
2301 Bellevue Road, Suite 1000
Dublin, Georgia 31021

Emory Transplant Center –  Savannah
(located in the St. Joseph’s/Candler Hospital)
5534 Reynolds Street, Suite 212
Savannah, GA   31405

For more information about our locations and scheduling an appointment, visit our Kidney Transplant Program website.

 

*Source: Transplant by volume, Scientific Registry of Transplants Recipients (SRTR) national database

 

A Life Free From Anti-Rejection Medication Post-Transplant?

A life free from taking anti-rejection medications post-transplant…is it possible? After transplant, patients must take multiple medications to keep their bodies from rejecting the new organ. The side effects of these immunosuppressant drugs, for many, can be grueling. Side effects range from fatigue to high blood pressure to increased risk of infection. Researchers are currently evaluating whether it’s possible for kidney transplant patients to avoid use of immunosuppressant drugs post transplant. They’ve found that it’s possible that by not only transplanting the living donor organ but also some of the donor’s immune producing cells, it  may be possible to deceive the recipient’s immune system into accepting the new organ as its own.

To evaluate the likelihood of decreased reliance on immunosuppressant drugs for kidney transplant patients, researchers collect immune system-producing stem cells and other immunity cells from the living donor’s bloodstream. They infuse transplant patients with radiation and medications to wipe out part of their own bone marrow.  This allows the donated cells to squeeze in and create a sort of ‘mixed’ immunity that prevents rejection.  In essence, a kidney transplant patient would also be receiving a bone marrow transplant.

Dr. Kenneth Newell

Dr. Kenneth Newell

At the Emory Transplant Center, researcher Dr. Kenneth Newell, is compiling a registry of kidney recipients who somehow survive despite quitting the pills on their own because they couldn’t afford them or because of side effects – a truly rare case.  Thus far, Dr. Newell has discovered about three dozen of these cases.  The research team at Emory is testing these patients for biological markers that might explain why they fared well and who else is a good candidate.  This may provide clues that a completely separate part of the immune system plays a role in organ rejection/acceptance.

In the meantime, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug belatacept (Nulojix®) for the prevention of graft rejection after kidney transplants.  This is the first time a new class of drugs has been developed for transplant since the 1990s.  Belatacept has the potential to improve and simplify the medication regimens of kidney transplant recipients, being a less toxic alternative to calcineurin inhibitors, with fewer side effects such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, kidney toxicity and diabetes.  It is now being offered at the Emory Transplant Center, where Emory physicians played a role in discovering this new drug.

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“My Offer Stands.” – Emory Transplant Nurse Donates Kidney to Patient

Clay Taber, Transplant Patient with Nurse Allison BatsonEmory University Hospital transplant nurse Allison Batson has spent many years caring for patients in need of a life-saving organ transplant. She has seen many patients’ lives saved because of the gift of organ donation … and many others lost because a matching organ simply could not be located in time.

Recently though, Allison was not only in the position to provide care and comfort at the bedside of a transplant patient in desperate need of a kidney transplant, she selflessly gave of herself – literally- by becoming an organ donor to 23 year-old Clay Taber of Columbus, Georgia.

Clay graduated from Auburn University in August and is soon to marry his college sweetheart in a few months. While he has been eagerly looking toward his future, over the last few months, he’s also been battling the fight of his life.

After his graduation, Clay’s family took a celebratory beach vacation at the Gulf of Mexico – not long after the unprecedented oil spill that occurred there. A few weeks later, Clay was not feeling well.

A doctor’s visit and standard blood tests uncovered Clay had Goodpasture’s Syndrome, a rare (approximately 1-in 1 million), life-threatening autoimmune disorder related to antibody formation in the body. Goodpasture’s syndrome is characterized by renal (kidney) disease and lung hemorrhage.

There is no exact cause known for Goodpasture’s disease, a disease in which the immune system fights the body’s own normal tissues through creating antibodies that attack the lungs and kidneys. Sometimes the disorder is triggered by a viral infection, or by the inhalation of gasoline or other hydrocarbon solvents – such as those found in crude oil.

Nurse Allison Batson, Patient Clay Taber

Nurse Allison Batson with Clay Taber

While Clay was lucky that the disorder was discovered before his lungs were affected, he was now suffering from complete kidney failure. He was transferred to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, where he would spend numerous weeks on the 7th floor – the transplant unit, where he would undergo weeks of dialysis and plasmapheresis (blood purification procedure used to treat several autoimmune diseases.)

And that’s where the bond began.

“Immediately when Clay came onto our unit, he became a special patient that everyone just gravitated to,” said Allison Batson. “Here was this young man with everything in his life ahead of him, and he was fighting for his life. He quickly became friends of many of the staff, and really was just a tremendous inspiration to us all.”

Allison continued to visit with Clay during his weeks at the hospital, and a deeper connection began to form than the typical nurse-patient bond.

“I learned more about Clay, his family, his life, what he saw for his future. He wanted to get married to his sweetheart. He just graduated from college. The whole world was his, with the exception of this incredibly rare illness that hit him out of the blue. I have children his age, and I felt the same kind of pain his mother was feeling. Something inside me said I needed to do more.”

Soon Clay was strong enough to return home, where he would continue to receive dialysis treatment for a few months while waiting for a donor organ. Because Clay’s blood type is O-negative, finding a matching donor would prove to be challenging.

Clay’s mother, Sandra, would be tested as a possible match. She, however, would not qualify to be Clay’s organ donor. Then in late October, during a visit to Emory and the transplant unit where he regularly visited with friends and well-wishers, Clay, of course, also met with Allison.

“She said ‘If you’ll let me do this, I want to donate my kidney to you,” Clay recalls. “Something at that point just hit me. There are so many people in need of an organ transplant and have been waiting like me – even longer than me in many cases. And here is Allison offering to do this amazing thing. When she said ‘If you’ll let me,’ there was just something in those words. I couldn’t say no.”

Soon after, Allison would undergo the donor testing process that would eventually confirm her as a perfect match for Clay.

“People have asked me why I would do this for a stranger, or what if I had a family member in need one day, or why would I risk my own life or health for someone I barely know. My answer is because I can. Sure, I have children who might possibly be in need one day, but here was this young man right in front of me who needs help – today, and I am in a position to help him – today. If what I do for Clay causes more awareness among others that live organ donation is a possibility, then I can only hope that other lives will be saved because of my actions.”

On Tuesday, January 10th, the families of both Allison and Clay gathered in the early morning hours at Emory University Hospital. Smiles, tears and hugs were abundant between people who had formed an unbreakable bond over the course of the last few months, and had, in effect become extended family to one another.

In Operating Room #9, Allison underwent surgery to remove her kidney, while Clay was prepped for surgery just 30-feet away in Operating Room #8. Hours later, both patients were resting comfortably on the 7th floor of Emory University Hospital, where they had met by chance just months before. Both ready to start the new year in incredible fashion – with a new lease on life for Clay, and as a hero for Allison.

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For Emory Transplant Patient, Laughter Really is the Best Medicine

David Duncan, Emory transplant patient

David Duncan

David Duncan has many reasons to be thankful this holiday season. He recently celebrated the 15th anniversary of his kidney and pancreas transplants, and both organs are functioning with no signs of rejection. He no longer needs debilitating dialysis treatments thanks to the kidney transplant and is free from the insulin he had to take from the time he was diagnosed with diabetes at age 12 to age 39, when his pancreas transplant cured his unstable disease. But he is most thankful to the donor family who gave him a second chance at life.

“My surgeons left me with something else, too—a funny bone,” he says, cracking one of his many jokes. David has made it his life’s work as a minister, telling humorous, inspirational stories to children, and as a motivational speaker for LifeLink with the motto, “Any day above ground is a good day.”

“I went into Emory for a kidney transplant, and there must have been a two-for-one sale. I ended up with a pancreas, too,” quips David, who is 54. “I have a brand new life. The transplants lifted me out of the grave.”

Before his transplants in 1996, he was in renal failure, on dialysis and at the point that his nephrologist in Macon said he might not survive much longer without a kidney transplant. He was on Emory’s waiting list for six months before receiving a donor kidney and pancreas “from a pre-teenage girl who gave me a second chance.”

He pauses and remembers the extraordinary gifts from his donor family, “My chair is filled, but the chair for that family is empty. But they changed my life and it’s my mission to give hope to children of all ages,” says David, who serves as a chaplain for homeless, orphaned abused or neglected children.

“David is the kind of guy you love to have around,” wrote a former colleague, Pastor Bob Price, in a letter about David to the ETC. “He just makes you feel better. If someone asks him how he is doing, he might say something like, ‘If I were any better, I’d be twins!’”

There are a couple of things that could’ve dampened David’s positive attitude: He’s also a double amputee. Complications from the diabetes had left him with foot ulcers and poor circulation in his legs, which led to the amputation of one leg six years ago and the other a year later.

David and his wife, Shirley, have three daughters and three grandsons. “I don’t allow them to take care of me. I have no limitations. I’m active, watch my weight and take care of my own health—I am intentional about my meds and my life’s purpose,” he continues. “Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional.”

David writes notes each year at this time to his surgeons, Drs. Chris Larsen and Thomas Pearson, to thank them for their care. He also takes time to thank all the others at Emory who have cared for him over the years, from the front desk receptionists who are always so friendly, to the nurses, phlebotomists and doctors.

“It’s all about teamwork—they have no idea how inspiring they are,” he says. “We can’t take them for granted. Life is a gift, and it is up to each one of us to unwrap it and use it to serve others.”

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