Posts Tagged ‘living donor transplant’

Donate Life Month “Thank You” from Joe Persichetti

Joe Persichetti transplant patient
Dear Donor Family,

It has been eight years since my life saving heart transplant, and once again, I want to thank my donor and donor family for the gift of life.

I suffered my first of three heart attacks at age 40, and for eighteen years I struggled with heart disease. At age 58 my heart was failing and I was told that I would need a heart transplant to live. I was put on the on the transplant list and waited at home for four months. Waiting and not knowing if the call would come in time. At that point I did the only thing I knew how to do, pray.

When the call did come that there was a heart for me, all I could think about was that someone I never met was going to save my life.

I never imagined that I would enjoy this quality of life. I am using my new life to bring awareness to the importance of organ donation, and mentoring others who are waiting for a life saving transplant. I am determined to give back and celebrate life in honor of my donor.

My family and I are always thankful for each day we have together. I am playing golf and enjoying life to its fullest. I truly must say that my greatest joy is the time I spend with my seven grandchildren. As I hold them close to me I am grateful I have the chance to watch them grow. They are the joy of my life and I am truly blessed.

As always your family and my donor are in my heart and daily prayers forever.

There is no greater gift then the gift of life you shared with me.

Sincerely,
Joe

 

Donate Life Month “Thank You” Message from Terri Lynne

Terri Lynne

My donor was an 11 year old girl from Arkansas; that is all I know of her but not a day has ever gone by that I haven’t thought of her. Words will never begin to explain enough what has been given to me.


I believe I was given more than just a liver; I have her legacy. Even if I don’t know her name, her existence and memory is alive in me. My liver isn’t just an organ to me; it is a part of her.”

 

You can share Terri’s story here.

If you haven’t signed up to become a donor yet and are needing more information, please visit Donate Life.

Celebrating the Gift of Life – Donate Life Month

Since 2003, April has served as National Donate Life Month and provided the health and transplant communities with an entire month of local, regional and national activities to help support and raise awareness around organ donation and celebrate those who have given the gift of life to others by donating. We’ve seen some amazing gifts of generosity here at Emory since National Donate Life Month last year, and in honor of the month, we’d like to celebrate those members of our community who have truly given of themselves in an effort to save the lives of others.

Pamela Emory Employee Living Donor

Pamela Lesane

We kicked off Donate Life Month last year with the help of Pamela Lesane, an Emory Healthcare employee and now patient, after making a very generous gift to her own sister. After beginning her career with Emory Healthcare in Guest Services, Pamela came into contact with a transplant coordinator who asked her if her sister, who had suffered from kidney disease all her life, had ever been evaluated for a transplant. She had not, so Pamela helped her push forward in getting evaluated and her sister was placed on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. It turned out Pamela would be a match for her sister’s transplant, and the rest is history. You can read more on Pamela’s story here.

Shortly after Pamela was able to help bring renewed life to her sister via organ donation, six lives at Emory were saved by as a result of a selfless donation from one man, Jon Pomenville, from Anderson, South Carolina. 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 did and he wasn’t looking for credit. In fact he was completely comfortable with remaining anonymous throughout the process. But during a follow-up visit to Emory University Hospital, Jon met many of the individuals whose lives he helped change – 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. Share Jon’s story.

Lester Crowell

Lester Crowell

Many of our transplant community members are recipients of organ donations themselves and have opted to find ways to give back to others in need. Lester Crowell, is a fantastic example of an Emory Transplant patient who took giving back to a whole new level. Lester is a two-time recipient of a donated heart, and as a heart transplant patient, he shared the love in a major way by holding an event to help raise awareness and over $30,000 for the Georgia Transplant Foundation. Check out Lester’s story in this video and blog post.

Kevin Jordan Wake Forest Kidney Transplant at Emory

Coach Tom Walter & Kevin Jordan

We’ve seen family members give to family members, anonymous givers donate life to change the lives of others, and a transplant patient who gave back to the community, but one story, that of Kevin Jordan and Coach Tom Walter of Wake Forest University was an especially touching one for us here at Emory. In February of 2011, we shared Part I of their story. 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. In October of this year, just 7 months later, Kevin was able to return to practice at the sport he loves thanks to the generous gift of Coach Tom. Share their story here.

Clay Taber, Transplant Patient with Nurse Allison Batson

Clay Taber & Allison Batson

The giving back here at Emory continued when just a few months ago, our own transplant nurse, Allison Batson, gave of herself, literally, to 23-year-old patient, Clay Taber, who was in desperate need of a kidney transplant. “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. “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.” Share Allison and Clay’s story here.

We are so grateful to the steps that have been taken by the Emory transplant community to celebrate and give the gift of life. Countless lives are changed at the Emory Transplant Center every year because of selfless gifts of those in our community. In honor of Donate Life Month, we will help to spotlight some of these very special stories in the weeks to come. If you have your own story to share, or just want to give thanks to those here who have given the gift of life, please use the comments section below.

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A Mother-Daughter Transplant Story – Angie Dudley, Bakerella

There are many things a mother can pass along to her daughter, but it takes a unique generosity—not genes—for a mother to give her daughter a kidney. In June, Angie Dudley, owner of the blog, Bakerella, and creator of cake pops, received her second kidney transplant from none other than her own mother, Sandy Cunningham. Although this is not Angie’s first transplant experience, she says her mother has, from day one, offered to be her organ donor.

Transplant Patient Angie Dudley & Mother, Sandra Cunningham

Transplant patient, Angie Dudley, with her mother, Sandy Cunningham.

Angie was diagnosed with Focal Sclerosing Glomerulonephritis (FSGS) in April of 1991 after a routine doctor visit led to kidney biopsy. It was found to be heavily scarred, and by October, Angie was undergoing dialysis and on the waiting list for a kidney transplant.

“My mom was very proactive in trying to get on the [donor] list,” Angie said, but doctors suggested they wait for a kidney from a cadaver. “I didn’t want to make my mom go through that because they told me in half the cases of my disease, it reoccurs.”

After 10 months of continuing peritoneal dialysis—all while attending college and working part-time— Angie received her first kidney transplant at just 20 years old.

Dr. Christian Larsen, MD, PhD, performed both of Angie’s transplants. “I was so happy with what [Dr. Larsen] did,” Angie said. She was glad to see that the incisions from her first surgery healed with minimal scarring, which she attributed to Larsen’s thoughtfulness. But she didn’t expect that after nearly 19 years of health, Larsen would have to operate on her again.

Near the end of 2010, things took a turn when Angie’s symptoms resurfaced. Doctors determined she would likely need a second kidney transplant.

“I guess I really thought my kidney would last as long as I would,” Dudley said. “It was kind of overwhelming emotionally to think about losing it because it had been with me for so long. I didn’t want it to go bad not because I wouldn’t be willing to have another kidney, but there was a life sacrificed for that.”

Her mother had already begun emailing doctors again, seeking approval to be Angie’s organ donor. “This time [my mom] was adamant about being the donor,” Angie said. “I don’t think I could’ve stopped her if I wanted to.”

After taking various tests and retests, Sandy Cunningham finally received the news she’d been waiting for: She was approved be her daughter’s kidney donor. “That was just the most awesome day of my life,” Sandy said. “It still is.”

On June 14, both mother and daughter underwent surgery for the transplant. “I was most worried about my mom being the donor,” Angie said. “I didn’t want anything to happen to her.”

Angie’s mom, on the other hand, was confident. “While I might’ve been nervous, I pushed it all aside because that was the very best resource that we had,” she said. “We were doing the best thing we could do. Had I died doing that, it would have been fine. I truly feel that way, and I would do it again.” But her daughter objects, “I would go on dialysis again if there was any risk of that,” she insisted.

Knowing she wouldn’t be able to walk for a few days, Angie insisted on seeing her mother right after the surgery. “[The staff] wanted to take me to my room, and I said, ‘No, wheel my bed into her room so I can see her.’”

Dr. Nicole Turgeon, MD, assistant professor of surgery at the Emory Clinic, operated on Angie’s mother and said Sandy couldn’t have had a better donor. “The bond that these two share was very striking,” she noted. “The love they have for each other is remarkable.”

Dr. Turgeon also commended Angie for her accomplishments as a baker. “[She] does some really neat things with Bakerella,” Turgeon said. “The fact that she can have kidney disease and still be so creative and contribute to society in such a way that you would never know she even had kidney disease is what was most striking to me.” Dudley began blogging in 2007, but her Bakerella site went viral after she posted pictures of her cake pops, an adorably enticing treat she concocted herself. Since then, her aptitude for creative baking has landed her on the Martha Stewart Show, as a judge in various baking competitions, and even on the red carpet at the Emmys, thanks to Duncan Hines.

Angie’s website, www.bakerella.com, receives almost three million page-views each month, and she also published a a New York Times best-selling book, appropriately titled Cake Pops, which will soon be available in four different languages.

Not surprisingly, her mother’s generous nature reflects in Angie’s work. “What turned into something for me has turned into something to give other people,” she stated.

“How much her mom was willing to promote and care for her…was probably a big part of why she was successful and had the ability to live a normal life despite having kidney disease,” Turgeon said of Angie. “I think that’s a tribute to her mom.”

And no matter how succsesful she becomes, Angie agrees that she will, first and foremost, always be her mother’s beloved daughter.

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.

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.