Posts Tagged ‘organ transplant’

Mother Daughter Team Kicks Off Six-Way Kidney Swap

kidney-swapWhen Mother’s Day rolls around this year, Cindy Skrine and her daughter, also named Cindy, will have a lot to celebrate. Having lived with kidney disease for many years, the elder Cindy needed a kidney transplant. Her daughter was tested as a donor, but ultimately was not a match for her mother. She was, however, a match for someone in California. With the help of Emory’s Kidney Paired Donor Exchange program, thus began a six-way kidney swap that stretched from Georgia to California to Tennessee and then back to Georgia.

“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.

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. The Emory Transplant Center is the state’s largest transplant center performing the highest volume of kidney transplants in Georgia.

To learn more about the Skrine’s story, check out the video below:

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

Celebrating the Gift of Life in the New Year

Donate Life New Year's FloatWhile many people were recovering from New Year’s Eve parties and setting their resolutions for 2014, Emory transplant recipients Amy Tippins and Julie Allred were celebrating life on a much grander scale on New Year’s Day.

Tippins and Allred were two of 30 transplant recipients nationwide who rode on the Donate Life float in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., which preceded the Rose Bowl. The float, which featured illuminating lanterns, was called “Light Up the World,” and sought to bring awareness to organ and tissue donation.

Tippins received a liver transplant in 1993 at Emory University Hospital after being diagnosed as a teenager with hepatic adenoma, a rare benign tumor of the liver. In the 20 years since her transplant, Tippins has gone on to graduate high school, college, own her own company and volunteer with the Georgia Transplant Foundation.

Julie Allred on the Donate Life Float

Julie Allred on the Rose Parade Donate Life Float

Allred, a type 1 diabetic since age 10, got her first insulin pump in 1992. Despite her efforts to carefully watch her diet and test regularly, she continued to suffer the effects of severe hypoglycemia. But thanks to two islet cell transplants at the hands of Emory transplant surgeon Dr. Nicole Turgeon and interventional radiologist Dr. Kevin Kim, Julie has experienced relief in ways she never knew possible. Soon after the first islet transplant, the episodes of life-threatening low blood sugar levels stopped for Allred, helping her get back to the things she enjoys.

Dr. Turgeon joined Allred and Tippins on the Donate Life float, which also was decorated with floragraph portraits of deceased organ donors.

“The Rose Parade float is just one of the many ways we can raise awareness of the importance, need and life-saving capabilities of organ donation,” says Turgeon. “I was thrilled to be able to both honor our donors and celebrate life with our recipients.”

Donate Life Month – Pros & Cons of Organ Donation

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.

Currently more than 115,000 men, women and children are awaiting organ transplants to save their lives. They’re in need of hearts, kidneys, livers, lungs, and other organs which can all be transplanted if donors were available, giving them a second chance at life. Understandably, potential donors may have reservations about organ donation, but we’ve compiled a list of pros and cons to help you with your decision of the gift of life.

Pros:

  • ONE organ donor can save up to EIGHT lives. There are nearly 115,000 men, women and children waiting for an organ transplant in the U.S. By registering to become an organ donor, you can help save lives!
  • For the transplant recipient, it is a second chance at life. For some, an organ transplant means no longer having to be dependent on costly routine treatments to survive. It allows many recipients to return to a normal lifestyle.
  • For the family of the deceased donor, they feel a sense of goodness that came from a tragedy – that if the organs are transplanted into a young, deserving person, then their loss was not in vain. Donor families take some consolation in knowing that some part of their loved one continues in life.
  • Living Donation – It is possible to donate organs while you are still alive. Living people can donate a kidney, portions of the liver, lung, pancreas and intestines, as well as blood, and go on to live healthy lives. Most often it is relatives who do living tissue donation. It is possible, however, to register for completely humanitarian reasons and give organs to a stranger.

Cons:

  • Families might be confused by the fact that donor bodies are often kept on life support while the tissues are removed. Surgeons do not remove any tissues unless the person is brain dead, but they sometimes put the body on a ventilator to keep the heart pumping fresh blood into the tissues to keep them alive long enough to harvest. This is not the same as life, but there is a moment when the ventilator is removed and the heart stops.
  • Another “con” might be that the donor does not usually get to choose who the organs go to, and perhaps an organ will go to someone of a different faith, political viewpoint or temperament than the donor. The donor has to believe that all life is sacred and that anyone who receives the “ultimate gift” of a donor organ will be grateful and be imbued with a sense of gratitude and a desire to pay it forward.

To become a donor and for more information visit Donate Life today.

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Emory Receives $20 Million Grant from NIH for Continued Transplant Research

Emory Transplant CenterIn the last few years, thanks to the development of anti-rejection drug therapies, outstanding breakthroughs in short-term outcomes have been achieved among organ transplant patients. We first introduced you to belatacept on our blog in September of 2010, while the medication was being studied by our team of doctors and researchers. Then in June of last year, we announced the FDA’s approval of belatacept and its confirmed ability to provide a less toxic alternative to the standard anti-rejection medications, including calcineurin inhibitors like cyclosporine.

Even with these developments, though, significant challenges remain for patients over the long term with organ rejection and drug toxicity that often leads to cardiovascular disease, infection or cancer.
To help overcome these challenges, a new $20 million grant has been bestowed upon Emory from the National Institute of Health to allow physician/researchers to develop better treatments for organ transplant recipients that help avoid both organ rejection and drug toxicity. The new grant builds upon more than 18 years of groundbreaking research by Emory scientists—such as the investigation into belatacept—that has already significantly advanced the transplant field.

Christian Larsen, Emory Transplant Center Director

Dr. Larsen

“Despite tremendous advances in immune drug therapy, the fact remains that organ recipients still must take immunosuppressant drugs over their lifetimes,” says Chris Larsen, MD, PhD, executive director of the Emory Transplant Center and principal investigator of the new grant. “Improvement in these transplant drugs is still a critical need for avoiding acute and late-stage rejection. Ultimately, we want to improve overall health while reducing cost through improved outcomes with fewer drugs.”

In addition to Dr. Larsen, project leaders from the Emory Transplant Center will include Allan D. Kirk, MD, PhD, scientific director of the Emory Transplant Center and a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar; Leslie Kean, MD, PhD, Emory associate professor of pediatrics and director of the Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Division of the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Stuart J. Knechtle, MD, surgical director of the liver transplant program at Emory Transplant Center and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and Andrew Adams, MD, PhD, assistant professor of surgery.

“The most important feature of this award is its support for multiple investigators attacking the problems of immunosuppression from different but complementary angles,” says Kirk. “The team science approach is the best way to get results to our patients.”

Several projects funded by the new grant will aim to develop more effective transplant drugs and strategies to avoid immunosuppressant drugs altogether.

An additional project will develop strategies to overcome immune sensitization in patients who have had previous transplants, pregnancies or blood transfusions. These patients often are not candidates for transplant because of their increased risk of rejection.

For more information about the Emory Transplant Center, its research projects and clinical programs please  use the Related Resources links below.

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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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“Whatever Doesn’t Kill Me Had Better Start Running!”

Terri Lynne Transplant Patient & Dr. Dodson Transplant Surgeon

Terri Lynne giving her medal from the GA Transplant Games to her transplant surgeon, Dr. Dodson

Georgia native and Douglasville resident, Terri Lynne was born with a rare disease called Tyrosinemia, it is a genetic disorder characterized by elevated blood levels of the amino acid tyrosine, a building block of most proteins.  Terri’s disease caused her liver cancer that led to a liver transplant at the age of 13.   As a child, Terri had her transplant at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston and was performed by Emory’s Dr. Thomas Dodson, who started the pediatric liver transplant program in 1990.  Terri was only the 8th pediatric liver transplant in Georgia.  It’s been 20 years since Terri’s transplant, and she feels it is important to give back to the transplant community. So much so, in fact, that when Terri visits the Emory Transplant Center for her own appointments, she frequently shares her story and answer questions for people who are just beginning their own transplant journey. It’s her mission to let others know that even after undergoing a transplant, there are no limitations in what they can do.  In Terri’s case, she set not a long-term goal, but rather a long distance goal, to participate in her first marathon after receiving her transplant.

In her first attempt in making strides towards her goal, Terri signed up to run in a 400 meter race at the GA Transplant Games- but she was unable to finish the race.  That’s when Terri made it her mission for the next year to run the whole thing. She began taking baby steps towards her long distance goal in 2006 when she says, “I ran the first mile ever in my life and I couldn’t stop.”

Terri chose the Marine Corps Marathon in 2007 as her ultimate test.   “The final push for me to sign up came when a fellow transplant friend dared me to do it.  He told me he would shave his head if I ran the whole thing. Given my transplant and medical history, I wasn’t sure if I could do it but I wanted to find out.”

Terri finished the marathon in 6 hours and 6 minutes.

Now, when Terri visits the Emory Transplant Center and passes the inspirational photos of transplant recipients that have always graced its wall, she has something to celebrate.  “One of them is of me; I am crossing the finish line of that marathon.  A Marine gave me my finish medal; I gave him a hug and started crying, I couldn’t believe it. Sometimes, I still don’t believe it.”

And despite her improved health, Terri continues to visit the Emory Transplant Center, both as a patient and an ad hoc advocate who is always willing to share her story and inspiration with other patients on her own visits.  “I have been going to Emory and Egleston since I was two years old; it is all I have ever known.  In the last three years I have had some issues with my liver and kidney numbers. It can be scary sometimes, but my coordinator Dianne [Dianne Thackston] has been very understanding, compassionate and has helped me deal with it. I wouldn’t trust my care to anyone but Emory!”, says Terri.

And in the true spirit of giving back in the way she was given to, Terri even donated one of her own medals from the GA Transplant Games to her surgeon, Dr. Dodson.  “I wanted to surprise him. I made him close his eyes, put the medal around his neck and said, ‘I won this for you’. It was a small way of saying thank you for saving my life and being able to do that made my day.”

Emory Researchers Investigate Methods for Reducing Transplant Rejection

Transplant Center OutcomesOrgan transplant rejection is a fear for many people faced with a possible need for transplantation. For this group of transplant candidates, some good news has come from recent research taking place at the Emory Transplant Center. Emory’s research shows that a new immunosuppressant protocol could convince a transplant recipient’s immune cells to switch sides by converting cells that normally recognize and attack transplanted organs to cells that control the immune response instead—and protect the grafted organ. This may give patients a better chance of avoiding rejection of the transplanted organ and help them wean off anti-rejection drugs over time, reducing the rate of long-term complications after transplant.

Dr. Mandy Ford

Mandy Ford, PhD

Emory’s Dr. Mandy Ford, assistant professor of surgery, is the senior author on the study, published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases funded the study.

Emory transplant researchers found that an experimental combination of treatments can induce turncoat behavior among immune cells in mice with skin grafts. The combination included a transfusion of spleen cells from the donor, as well as a limited course of a drug that blocked immune cell signals from the CD154 molecule. The grafts survived for months. If one part of the combination was deleted, then the grafts didn’t last more than a few weeks.

“Using this treatment protocol, we found that a subset of cells that would normally attack the graft instead turn on a gene that instructs them to become graft-protective,” Dr. Ford says. “These protective cells, called regulatory T cells, are present in everyone’s immune system and normally prevent us from developing autoimmunity.”

Unfortunately, using drugs that block CD154 clinically in humans has the drawback of causing blood clots. But Dr. Ford says that Emory researchers are investigating the possibility of blocking CD154 signals in a different way to avoid the blood clotting mechanism, such as using donor-specific transfusions to control the immune system. The Emory Transplant Center is currently studying donor-specific transfusion (but with different drugs, not anti-CD154 drugs) as part of an experimental kidney transplant protocol.

We’ll keep you updated on this innovative transplant research. If you have questions on this research for our team, or thoughts you’d like to contribute, please feel free to use the comments section below!

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