Posts Tagged ‘patient story’

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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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.”

Islet Cell Transplant for Type 1 Diabetes? Julie Allred’s Story (Part II)

Julie Allred, Islet Transplant PatientIn November, we shared with you part I of Julie Allred’s story. Of the nearly three million Americans living with type 1 diabetes, many of them will be able to successfully control their disease with insulin injections or pumps. But like Julie Allred, some patients will develop brittle type 1 diabetes, a condition in which even insulin injections and pumps cannot fully control the dangerous and often unpredictable swings in blood sugar that can lead to loss of consciousness and coma.

Throughout her life, Julie’s low blood sugar has been a constant source of concern, affecting her moods, relationships, career and ability to think clearly. A type 1 diabetic since age 10, Julie has always had to have someone, whether it be her father, husband or daughter, be on the lookout for the highs and lows of her blood sugar because she could not recognize them herself.

“I could never go anywhere alone,” says Julie. “And, I got to the point where I couldn’t even be in my home alone. Looking back, I realize now that my husband and daughter were always coordinating their schedules so that one of them could make sure that I was ok. It wasn’t just me who had diabetes. My whole family was dealing with it, too.”

But thanks to two islet cell transplants — one in July 2011 and another in February 2012 — 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.

“The transplant has allowed my blood sugar to stay even throughout the day,” says Allred. “I have never felt this way in my life. I have more energy, and I am able to do things without constant worry and without someone always having to watch me.”

As part of a multi-year national research study on the islet cell transplant procedure, Allred is one of just 18 patients who has had the procedure at Emory, the only transplant center offering islet cell transplants in Georgia. Insulin-producing cells (islets) are harvested from an organ donor’s pancreas and inserted into the recipient’s liver. The fragile islets implanted in Julie’s liver serve to take over the job of making insulin, reducing the need for insulin shots, at least temporarily, and helping her body regain the ability to maintain steady, healthy blood sugar levels. Julie has been able to reduce her insulin from 65 units a day received through a 24-hour insulin pump to just a once daily injection of four units at bedtime.

“I’m so lucky to be one of those few people to have that little bit of normalcy for my life and family,” Allred says. “My family and I finally have freedom.”

Julie’s father, who was her primary caregiver, passed away shortly before Julie’s first transplant.

“My dad always said there would be a day when this would happen, that I would feel better,” says Julie. “Though he’s not here to experience it with me, I know he’s watching me and is so happy that he was right.”

Related Resources:

Lung Transplant – One Woman’s Success Story

Harriet Boger, Lung Transplant Patient

Author: Harriet Boger, Lung Transplant Recipient

As I write this blog, I am on Marco Island with my sister. We played 18 holes of golf, walking the course and pulling our carts. We also play tennis every afternoon and have played both bocce ball and croquet too. I walk on the beach every day (of course, always wearing a cover-up and hat as directed by my doctor), and reflect on my life. This is definitely something I could not have done the 2 years before my transplant.

I am so thankful for every breath that I take, and want to share my story to give people hope.

Road to transplant…

I had my transplant on February 26, 2008 – that was just 4 short years ago. I clearly remember the day I was told that I had Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.

I used to love to hike in the North Carolina Mountains, but was finding it harder and harder to breathe when I was walking. I thought perhaps it was because I was not exercising enough so I tried to be more active but the shortness of breath continued. I decided it was time to see my doctor about this and in August of 2004 I was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF). I remember the day my doctor called and told me. After the news, I immediately hung up and went on-line to look up the condition. I read that there was no cure, and that as it got worse there would be unrelenting suffocation. And most of all I was shocked to read that the life expectancy for this disease was 3-5 years. I was alone and burst into tears.

For the next three years my lungs rapidly declined. I did not want anyone to know. My PCP sent me to a pulmonologist who was trying to treat the disease with steroids and harsh antibiotics but the ability to breath only got worse. I told my husband and finally my sister. She too looked up the disease and kept suggesting that I look into having a lung transplant, but that thought was just too foreign to me. My sister called the IPF Foundation and she tried her best to convince me that a transplant was my only hope of survival.

By Christmas 2007 I was in a wheel chair and tethered to a 25-foot tube. In one month I had gone from only needing up to 6 liters of oxygen (not great, but could manage with a dainty oxygen tank that I carried in my handbag) to needing 12 liters and having to stay home tethered to larger oxygen concentrator which would not function if my cord was longer than 25 feet. My life changed from being filled with activities to sitting on a sofa by day and being so exhausted by eating or dressing or doing anything that I looked forward to night and sleeping.

The decision…

I remember that Christmas in 2007, my son and his fiancé were visiting. My son saw that I was getting sicker by the day. I was unable to even stand up without gasping for breath. My son sat on my bed one night and said, “Mom, I want to walk you down the aisle at my wedding in May and that is 5 months away. I want you to live. You can’t wait any longer, you have to do something.” I decided to get listed for a transplant. My sister had researched possible centers, and thought I should to Barnes at St Lewis because they performed the first lung transplant. But a dear friend, Dr. Fray Marshall, told me about the Emory Transplant Center and that they had an excellent Lung Transplant program.

Gaining my life back…

During my downward spiral I could do virtually nothing for a year before my transplant. Since my recovery I have resumed my normal routine. I am back to hiking and trying to play golf, croquet and bridge. I have no restrictions as far as activities. But to prevent exposure to bacteria which can cause infections, I can no longer enjoy my two favorite foods, raw oysters or steak tartar. The only other restriction is staying out of the sun without a hat and sunscreen, which most people my age should do anyway so that is not an issue.

But also giving back…

How could I not want to give back to the community? I was almost dead and someone gave me my life back, the most precious gift anyone can give. I am so grateful and thankful for my donor and transplant team that all I want to do is help in any way possible. I go to three support groups at different hospitals and visit patients and their families whenever I am asked to do so. I am a Family/Patient Advisor for Emory and on the Unit Practice Council for 5BS (the transplant floor at Emory University Hospital). I attend pre-transplant meetings answering questions from patients. The doctors can tell patients about the transplant but they want to know from me how it will feel. I believe I was predestined to have an illness that lead to this transplant so I can be a vessel for God and do the things I now do to help patients and families. I hope to do more to help raise awareness for the importance of organ donation.

A huge thank you to Emory…

From the time I first walked into Emory, when my doctors took a chance and put me on the transplant list, until I was transplanted worked like clockwork. The most important thing was the care and compassion of my whole transplant team, including doctors, nurses and staff. My surgeon was dedicated, caring and precise. My nurses on the Emory Transplant unit catered to my every need. The transplant coordinators conditioned me to the new lifestyle of pills and post-transplant regimen. They worked together so beautifully and were deeply passionate about both their work and their patients. This was so evident in the way they worked together and this respect for each other reverberated throughout and made such a difference.

A huge thank you to organ donors…

The greatest gift of love that anyone could ever give is the gift of life. When that gift is given a life lives on. I feel the spirit of my donor in me and only wish I knew who she or he was so I could thank their family personally and learn more about that person. I feel I am more compassionate than I was before the transplant, and I think it was gained from the spirit of my unknown donor. I feel that person living in me sometimes and that makes me want to be a better person. Thank you to all the organ donors out there! You are all heroes!

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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

 

“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.

Related Resources:

 

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.”

Related Resources:

Transplant for Type 1 Diabetes? Julie Allred’s Story

Julie Allred, Islet Transplant Patient

Julie Allred

When Julie Allred heard that Emory was exploring alternate treatment options for patients with “brittle” or unstable type 1 diabetes, she didn’t realize that she would be the first to receive her transplant via a minimally invasive transplant technique in the interventional radiology suite at Emory Hospital, instead of the operating room.

Julie was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 10. She got her first insulin pump in 1992 and has used several different types of pumps over the years. Despite her efforts to carefully watch her diet and test regularly, she developed many problems over the past couple of years with unstable hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

Living with hypoglycemia affected Julie’s ability to do many of things she enjoyed. She was constantly worried about how she could or would be affected by the unpredictable changes in her blood sugar, including being caught unaware at night while asleep. Julie was never free—day or night—from the worry of a condition called hypoglycemic unawareness, which unpredictably causes unconsciousness.

“I wanted to have the transplant because I’ve seen so many changes in the treatment of diabetic patients over the years, from the first glucometers to new medications,” Julie says. She was placed on Emory’s islet transplant wait list in early July and received the call eight days later while at her dentist’s office on July 19, which was “a record for the shortest wait,” she notes.

Julie lives several hours from Atlanta in the Charlotte, NC, suburb of Concord, where she has worked as a nurse for the past 20 years in obstetrics and pediatrics. Julie made the trip to Atlanta for her islet transplant at Emory, which was performed by Dr. Kevin Kim, director of interventional radiology and image guided medicine, and Dr. Nicole Turgeon, kidney, pancreas and islet transplant surgeon.

“Our protocol is designed to treat patients who have had type 1 diabetes for at least five years and have experienced severe hypoglycemic unawareness,” reports Dr. Turgeon. She is principal investigator of the study and collaborated with Dr. Kim for more than a year to develop Emory’s protocol.

“We’re able to perform this type of transplant because of Dr. Kim’s expertise in image guided treatment of liver tumors in the interventional radiology suite and Emory’s experience in islet transplantation and the development of new treatment regimens to protect transplant grafts from rejection,” she says.

According to Dr. Kim, “The interventional radiology procedure involves a small access. We thread guidewires and catheters and a central line through the patient’s right side into the portal vein, which leads into the liver. The entire system is through a less than a quarter inch skin access, and there are no stitches required—only a bandage on her skin. There is no general anesthesia required, and the entire procedure is performed under moderate sedation. In fact, we were talking to Julie during the entire procedure.” The fragile islets implanted in Julie’s liver serve to take over the job of making insulin.

Julie Allred with her daughter at Disneyland

Julie with her daughter at Disneyland.

The conventional islet transplant involves a two- or three-inch incision in the abdomen. This open surgical approach can be painful, whereas, Julie experienced no side effects and took only one pain pill following her less invasive transplant.

Julie has been able to gradually taper her insulin from about 50 units a day pre-transplant to 8 to 11 units a day four weeks post-transplant. She is now free from the unpredictable changes in her blood sugar and has had no hypoglycemia.

“My doctor told my mother when I was first diagnosed that I wouldn’t live to age 30 or be able to have children. But because of these advances, I’ve been able to prove him wrong twice,” Julie chuckles. Thanks to the procedure, Julie was able to happily celebrate her daughter Meredith’s 16th birthday at Disney World in January of this year, and turned 43 years old on July 23rd, two days after her transplant.

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.