Posts Tagged ‘transplant center’

Understanding Organ Donation: Deciding to Give the Gift of Life

organ donation monthApril serves as National Donate Life month – raising awareness around organ donation and celebrating those who have given the precious gift of life to another. Currently more than 115,000 men, women and children are awaiting a life saving transplant. They are in need of organs, tissue, and bone marrow which can all be transplanted if donors were available, giving recipients a second chance at life. Understandably, potential donors may have reservations about organ donation. The Emory Transplant Center has compiled a list of pros and cons to help you with your decision to become an organ donor. Of note, the cons referenced below may in fact not be cons at all, but rather based on misconceptions.


  • ONE organ donor can save up to EIGHT lives. With more than 115,000 men, women and children awaiting 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. One can donate a kidney, portions of the liver, lung, pancreas and intestines, as well as bone marrow, and go on to live healthy lives. Most often it is a relative or a close friend who donates, but there are others who choose to donate to a complete stranger.

Cons (Misconceptions):

  • 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.
  • Many individuals incorrectly believe that if they donate organs that they or their family will then need to fund the cost of the operation used to remove the organ. This is not the case as costs actually fall to the recipient.
  • 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 learn more about organ donation, join Dr. Nicole Turgeon of the Emory Transplant Center for a live chat on Tuesday, April 28th from Noon – 1PM. She will answer all of your questions about organ donation, including how many people are currently waiting for an organ, what organs can be donated, and who can donate. She will also discuss paired donor exchange – what it is, how it works and how paired donor exchange is helping patients get a second chance at life. Register for the chat here.
To become a donor and for more information visit Donate Life of Georgia.

The Gift of Organ Donation – April is Donate Life Month

donate-lifeFor many, April signifies the start of spring with the first signs of sunnier days, bluer skies and growing flowers. But for transplant patients, their families and donors, April symbolizes another kind of rebirth – the journey of organ transplantation and the generous gifts of organ donors.

Started in 2003 and celebrated every April, National Donate Life Month aims to highlight the growing need for organ and tissue donations and provide a positive reminder for people to sign up to become donors. As we celebrate Donate Life Month, we’d like to take a look back at some of our amazing stories of donation and transplantation. None of these stories would have been possible without organ donation:

If you’re interested in registering to become a donor, it’s simple. Just visit

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Emory Transplant Center

Transforming Lives Through Transplant Research

Transplant Research at EmoryResearch conducted at the Emory Transplant Center over the years has led to medical and surgical treatments that restore the lives of an ever increasing number of transplant patients at Emory and beyond. And fiscal year 2013 was no less spectacular.

The 50 Emory Transplant Center faculty researchers and their postdoctoral students and staff stretched each research dollar to the limit, and created a lot of bang for the buck. They published 82 papers in 52 journals in fiscal year 2013, and twenty-eight faculty were principal investigators on an active award. Leading research faculty members — Drs. Stuart Knechtle, Allan Kirk, Leslie Kean, Ken Newell, and Ken Brigham — had a total of $11.9 million in funding last year to develop many advances. We are truly shaping the field.

Even with the recent government shutdown, the future of transplant research here in FY2014 looks positive. “Despite the worst year in federal research funding since 1931, the Emory Transplant Center is currently enrolling in the largest number of clinical trials in our history — 29 studies,” Carlson says, “Also, the ETC is the leading site in the country enrolling patients in a hepatic support device trial, which is directed by Dr. Ram Subramanian.” Overall, ETC faculty are participating in 45 kidney, liver, islet, composite tissue, lung, and heart transplantation and infectious disease research studies. And Emory’s transplant biorepository core is involved in 39 multicenter studies.

“In the end, the single most important factor is that the ETC has been able to sustain a high impact research portfolio that spans basic, translational, and clinical science research,” Carlson says. “We continue to be exceptional stewards of the investments entrusted to us. Congratulations to everyone involved in research for making such a big impact in FY2013, and thank you for your continued dedication to advancing the field.”

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From a Life of Giving to Giving the Gift of Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bogey the Transplant Therapy Dog Brings Cheer to Patients

Bogey Transplant Therapy Dog with Patient Daphne VeysOne of our kidney transplant recipients, Daphne Veys (pictured right), recently received a visit from one of her favorite caregivers during her last visit to the Outpatient Transplant Clinic. This caregiver happens to have four legs — he’s Bogey, one of the OTC’s therapy dogs. Veys frequently requests a visit from her furry friend when she is in the transplant clinic’s infusion room. Bogey, who has his own official Emory Healthcare ID and “business” card, is known to put a bright smile on many of our visitors’ faces.

Bogey Transplant therapy dog

“Daphne walked more distance than I have seen her walk for some time by taking Bogey for a stroll through the clinic, and she even danced a little jig,” says Satrina Hill, the nurse manager in the OTC. “The excitement on her face was priceless, and she smiled continuously. Bogey is amazing.”

Bogey is a seven-year-old flat-coated retriever owned by Kyle Kusa-Henry, senior medical secretary in the liver transplant program. She trained Bogey and had him certified through Therapy Dogs International, which tests and registers therapy dogs and their handlers for the purpose of visiting hospitals and medical clinics such as our Outpatient Transplant Clinic.


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A Not So Standard New Year’s for Dr. Nicole Turgeon

Dr. Nicole Turgeon, Emory Transplant

Dr. Nicole Turgeon

Just before New Year’s Day of 2012 you couldn’t find Dr. Nicole Turgeon, Emory kidney and pancreas transplant surgeon inside Emory Hospital walls as she normally is. Instead, Dr. Turgeon was taking time out of her holiday schedule for a cause she really believes in– organ donation. Dr. Turgeon jetted off to Pasadena, CA on December 29, 2012 to help decorate the Donate Life float for the Rose Bowl Parade.

“Although a small gesture, I wanted to pay tribute to the families who so selflessly give the gift of life to others,” she says of the experience. “I have seen the float on TV over the past several years and had wanted to participate. I was able to make it work this year with the incredible support of my family.”

Each year for the past six years, Donate Life has decorated a Rose Bowl Parade float with flowers. This year’s parade had the theme, “Just Imagine…,” and was viewed by millions of people at the event and on national television.

The Donate Life float had floral depictions of clock towers of the world, and six of the towers had 72 floral portraits memorializing deceased donors. The clocks were animated and rotated to mark the Donate Life theme, “One More Day,” and to recognize the value of time. Leading the float was a dedication garden honoring thousands of organ, eye and tissue donors and recipients nationwide, with roses in vials that had personalized messages. Twenty-eight transplant recipients, living donors or family members of donors rode on the float during the Rose Bowl Parade.

The Donate Life float had floral depictions of clock towers of the world, and six of the towers had 72 floral portraits memorializing deceased donors. The clocks were animated and rotated to mark the Donate Life theme, “One More Day,” and to recognize the value of time. Leading the float was a dedication garden honoring thousands of organ, eye and tissue donors and recipients nationwide, with roses in vials that had personalized messages. Twenty-eight transplant recipients, living donors or family members of donors rode on the float during the Rose Bowl Parade.

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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.

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.

Transplant Patients Benefit from Telemedicine Follow-Up Care

Transplant TelemedicineTelemedicine, now that is a word that either sounds from the future, or a phone call you get right when you sit down for dinner. At Emory though, telemedicine and organ transplantation are two medical innovations that work symbiotically to improve access to health care, patient outcomes, and the overall well-being for our Emory transplant patients.

Beyond providing consistent care at Emory’s Transplant Center, it is imperative that transplant patients have adequate follow-up care for a successful post-transplant recovery.  Transplant patient, Ken Sutha, winner of multiple medals at the National Kidney Foundation’s U.S. Transplant Games, is living proof of the importance of follow-up care. Via telemedicine, Emory physicians stay in contact and provide guidance in keeping transplant patients like him healthy.

Patients at Emory come from all over our large state of Georgia, including many from rural areas with limited access to appropriate health care. Today, after transplant patients are discharged from the hospital following surgery, they have the option to get their laboratory test and clinic visits done virtually over a telehealth network. This allows us to serve our transplant patients, and especially those outside of Atlanta with convenient and effective follow-up care.

Emory started its transplant telehealth program in January 2009 in an effort to increase access to health care throughout the state and in the past three years, it has seen substantial growth. Kevin Clark, Emory’s transplant department business manager, said the program is on track to have nearly 100 encounters with patients this year.

“We looked at 41 patients over the past couple of years to get an idea of true benefit and what we found was that these patients actually saved about 9,400 miles of drive time,” Clark said. With 33 patient presentation sites around the state of Georgia, transplants patients from Florida are also making use of the telehealth network. Ocala, Florida, resident Frank Brickey traveled to Tifton, Georgia, regularly for evaluations with his Emory transplant physicians following a kidney transplant in October 2008. Rather than making the six-hour drive to Atlanta for each visit and staying overnight, he only had to drive three and half hours and could make it a day visit.

“There is no waiting time, you just went right in and they take your vitals and you sit down in front of the teleprompter on the screen and communicate with the doctor face-to-face,” Brickey said. “It is very beneficial in that they know about you and it’s neat to have that contact with them. It is very reassuring.”

Brickey and other patients have said the staffs at telehealth sites are professional, easy to work with,and relatable, making this post surgery option an easy and steadfast choice. Being able to stay in contact with the physicians who actually performed their transplant procedure proved to be a huge benefit when complications arose, or just for the
peace of mind of communicating with the doctor who knows the patient best.

“I would definitely encourage anyone that has had a transplant at Emory or anywhere else that they stay close to the team that worked on them, with their physician and with their coordinators,” Brickey said.

Since Emory started its telehealth initiative, the program has seen substantial growth, a true tribute to not only the system, but the doctors, nurses, technicians, and patients, all who collaborate together to make telehealth not only successful, but revolutionary, for the post-transplant care.

To learn more about the Emory Transplant Center, visit: target=”_blank”

Top Transplant Doctors in Atlanta are at Emory

Each year, Atlanta magazine recognizes the top doctors in the metro Atlanta area as ranked by a thorough physician-led research process. The 2011 Atlanta Magazine Top Docs list included 318 doctors from across the Atlanta area and across specialties, highlighting the cream of the crop in specialties ranging from pediatric to geriatric services and everything in between. We’re very pleased to announce that not only can you find over 100 of the doctors recognized this year here at Emory, seven of them are our very own transplant team members!

Our Emory Transplant Center and its physician team are unique in that they are part of a multidisciplinary team providing care in seven core transplant specialty areas: kidney transplant, pancreas transplant, heart transplant, hand transplant, islet transplant, liver transplant & lung transplant. All of our doctors here at Emory Healthcare play a role in changing and saving lives, but often times our transplant team and the treatments they provide touch the lives of our patients and their families on a deeper level. And more often than not, receiving treatment from our transplant specialists is their last, if not only option. Thankfully, based on our program’s rankings, both from a statistical post-transplant quality outcome perspective, and the perspective of the physician research team, researchers at Castle Connolly Medical LTD, and Atlanta Magazine, the Emory Transplant Center is a great option to have.

We again congratulate each of our transplant surgeons for their dedication to providing outstanding patient centered care for our patients and families faced with less than idea circumstances that can warrant organ transplantation. It is because of our multidisciplinary team of transplant specialists and their compassion, that recognition such as the Atlanta Top Doctors rankings is given. If you’d like to shout out a particular transplant doctor who has impacted your life, please do so in the comments below. You can also find the listing of transplant surgeons recognized in this year’s rankings below. If you’re interested, check out the full list of Emory Healthcare doctors recognized as the best doctors in Atlanta.

Pancreas & Kidney Transplant Doctors:

  • Chris Larsen, MD, DPhil – Transplant Surgeon
  • Kenneth Newell, MD – Transplant Surgeon

Liver Transplant Doctors:

  • Stuart Knecthle, MD – Transplant Surgeon

Lung Transplant Doctors:

  • Seth Force, MD – Transplant Surgeon

Heart Transplant Doctors:

  • Andrew Smith, MD – Transplant Surgeon
  • Javed Butler, MD – Cardiologist

Hand Transplant Doctors:

  • Linda Cendales, MD – Transplant Surgeon