Posts Tagged ‘transplant center’

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.

Emory Performs First Hand Transplant in Georgia & Southeast, 14th Procedure in U.S.

Hand Transplant Story

A truly ground breaking procedure took place here at Emory this weekend. Transplant surgeons at Emory University Hospital have successfully completed the program’s first hand transplant. Not only is the complete hand transplant a first for Emory, but also the first hand transplant in the Southeast and only the 14th such procedure in the country. Emory transplant specialists performed this rare complete hand transplant procedure for a 21-year-old student out of Florida whose arm was amputated at the age of 1 due to Kawasaki Disease.

The hand transplant surgery lasted for 19 hours on Saturday, March 12 and involved a true multidisciplinary effort, including two teams (one dedicated to the patient and one to the donor arm) of transplant surgeons, specialists, nurses, and support staff. Since completion of the hand transplant, the patient has begun rehabilitation at Emory and will continue to rehabilitate in Atlanta for the next several months. As an IT major, when asked how the transplant would impact her life, her face lit up as she said, “I just want to be able to type.”

Emory’s Hand Transplant Program, established in 2007, is led by Dr. Linda Cendales, the only person in the United States with formal training in both hand and transplant surgery. Cendales is responsible for organizing the team that performed the first hand transplant in the U.S. and joined the Emory team from a program in Louisville that conducted 6 of the hand transplantations performed in the U.S.

If you have questions on the procedure or Emory’s Hand Transplant Program, please leave them in the comments section below.

Good Things Come in Twos (x2!) for Henry County Woman

Over five years ago, Kerry King felt very sick with prolonged episodes of nausea, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, and swelling.  She visited a community-based medical clinic, but her blood pressure was so high, they sent her to a local hospital where where she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and an enlarged heart.

After her diagnosis, an ambulance rushed Kerry to Emory University Hospital where she was admitted to an intensive care unit and diagnosed with a rare lung disorder, primary pulmonary hypertension (PPH.) PPH is characterized by increased pressure in the pulmonary artery, whereby the pulmonary artery carries oxygen-poor blood from the lower chamber on the right side of the heart to the lungs where it picks up oxygen.

After a heart catheterization and battery of other tests, Kerry was discharged from Emory University Hospital and returned home to Henry County with around-the-clock intravenous medication to mange the symptoms. On medication 24/7 for nearly five years, Kerry was forced to live a very limited lifestyle. Daily tasks became a major challenge, “I couldn’t even walk up the stairs to the bedroom at night – my husband carried me.” Trips to the hospital became more frequent and it became clear something had to be done.

Two days after Christmas in 2009, Kerry was placed on a lung transplant list at Emory, for not just one, but a double lung transplant. With her condition worsening by the day and after being informed she had about six weeks to live, all she could do was wait. And with nearly 2,000 people in the U.S. currently awaiting a lung transplant, finding two lungs for Kerry’s transplant had the potential to pose a serious barrier in saving the life of this Hampton, GA native.

Less than a month later, the good news came, and now, Kerry counts herself among the most lucky to have found a double lung transplant in time to save her life. Today, just over a year removed from her life-transforming experience, Kerry counts her lucky charms in the gifts that surround her each day, her twin sons, Justin and Austin, and the second chance at life she has thanks to her transplant that took place at Emory University Hospital.

After months of rehabilitation, Kerry returned home from the hospital.  That night, Kerry was enjoying her family and when bedtime for her twins came around, her son Justin went to the stairs and called to his Daddy to complete the only nightly routine he remembered in his young life, “Daddy, it’s time for you to carry Mommy upstairs.”   But on this night, for Kerry, those stairs were no longer a challenge.

Emory Transplant Center Achieves and Sustains Outstanding Quality Outcomes

Transplant Center OutcomesThe idea of replacing an organ via transplant can be a scary topic for people faced with a condition that may require one. At Emory, we’re consistently taking steps to improve transplant survival rates and hopefully, remove some of this fear for our patients. We’ve just received results from the January 2011 transplant center-specific report on outcomes from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR). We’re very pleased to announce that the Emory kidney transplant program, liver transplant program, and lung transplant program have all demonstrated consistently strong and in some cases better-than-expected patient outcomes.

Kidney Transplant

  • Emory’s overall one-year graft survival rate of 95.85% for the most recent cohort studied (July 2007 – December 2009) is statistically higher (p = .026) than the expected rate of 92.81%.
  • Emory’s living-donor graft survival rate of 100% is statistically higher (p =.033) than the expected rate of 96.36%.
  • Emory’s deceased donor graft survival rate is also numerically higher than expected (93.69% observed vs. 90.95% expected).

We’re pleased to also note that in 2010, the Emory transplant team performed 207 kidney transplants, and 22 pancreas transplant procedures – the largest number of transplants in the history of the kidney and pancreas transplant program. Of the 207 kidney transplants, 31% (64) involved living donors.

Lung Transplant

  • Emory’s one-year patient survival rate for the latest cohort (July 2007 – December 2009) is 90.14%, compared to a risk-adjusted expected rate of 82.74%.
  • Emory’s graft survival rate is 85.29%, compared to a risk-adjusted expected rate of 81.10%.

This past year, the Emory Transplant Center and team of transplant doctors performed its 300th lung transplant. The lung program has come a long way to reach this milestone, performing 35 transplants in 2010, a 300% increase over the annual total just 10 years ago.

Liver Transplant

Emory’s liver transplant program continues to achieve and sustain outstanding outcomes, with patient survival rates >91% following transplantation.

Since July 2008, our surgical transplant team has performed 241 liver transplantations (216 liver only, 25 liver/kidney combination transplants). Between January 1, 1988 – November 30, 2010, Emory has performed 67.9% (1,496 of 2,203) of all liver transplants in the state of Georgia.

Our transplant center continues to excel with statistically significant patient organ transplantation outcomes, demonstrating a commitment to high quality and patient success. If you have questions about our transplant program or outcomes, please leave them in the comments section below.

Knocking the ‘What Ifs’ Out of the Park

Georgia native and Wake Forest University baseball player’s life saved by Coach Tom, Emory Transplant Center, and divine intervention.

Kevin Jordan Wake Forest Kidney Transplant at Emory

Wake Forest University baseball coach Tom Walter and Wake Forest student athlete Kevin Jordan, with Dr. Alan Kirk, the Emory Transplant Center surgeon

We can find a reason in almost every situation to ask, “what if?” But what if, we didn’t? What if instead, we took a more active role in doing the right thing regardless of chance? Sometimes, it’s the ‘what ifs’ in life that prove to reveal a clear purpose in hindsight, and that’s exactly what’s been demonstrated in one of the most amazing stories we here at Emory have witnessed.

One year ago, while still a senior at Northside Columbus High School in Columbus, GA, Kevin Jordan was diagnosed with ANCA vasculitis, an autoimmune disorder that typically leads to almost immediate kidney failure. Kevin, an all-star baseball player who, at the time was being actively recruited by both Wake Forest University (WFU) and Auburn, was faced with an illness that could potentially change his future not only in baseball, but in life.

When faced with life-altering barriers, many of us give up– not Kevin. Despite his diagnosis meaning days that were previously filled with class and practice would now also need to accommodate 11-12 hours attached to a dialysis machine, he displayed the same courage and passion he is known for on the field. The same courage and passion that led Wake Forest University baseball coach, Tom Walter, to extend an offer to Kevin to continue his student-athlete career at WFU.

Despite circumstances, Kevin didn’t give up. He accepted the offer to attend Wake Forest and in doing so, immediately became part of a family he previously didn’t know existed. A family that would prove to play a role so fundamental to Kevin’s life that from it, a true genetic/medical connection would be established.

During his time at Wake Forest, Coach Tom noticed that Kevin’s strength and speed on the field had begun to deteriorate since high school. What hadn’t, was his “sweet swing” of the baseball bat. Kevin was clearly being impeded by his condition, but continued to attend practice with his team daily. He knew each day he would return to his dorm to spend the next 12 hours with his dialysis machine, but he kept his head up.

At this point, Kevin was in desperate need of a kidney. After both his mother and brother failed to meet matching criteria to serve as living donors, he didn’t have very many options. And that’s where Kevin’s second family comes into play. As much as he does his own two daughters, Wake Forest’s Coach Tom considers each and every player he’s ever coached to be part of his own family. Not even a year into Kevin’s time at WFU but already part of the family, Coach Tom himself volunteered to step up and be evaluated for a kidney donor match.

With only a 15% chance of a non-family member making it through the organ transplant matching to donation process, the chances of Coach Tom’s kidney being a viable option for Kevin were slim, but… what if? Coach Tom proved to be a viable organ donor for Kevin, and without hesitation, he agreed.

As if the family connection wasn’t already strong for members of the Wake Forest baseball team, it just got a whole lot stronger. After completing the living donor transplant from Coach Walter to Kevin on Monday, Emory’s Dr. Newell and Dr. Kirk have established an official medical bond between family members at WFU. Today, Kevin, Coach Tom, and doctors Newell and Kirk spoke on the results of the procedure and just two days after the transplant, both Kevin and Coach Tom were bright eyed and hopeful for things to come.

Coach Tom was asked at the recent press conference, what if one of his daughters needs a kidney transplant in the future and serving as the donor is no longer an option? In his response, we saw the same strength of character that Kevin has demonstrated all along. Coach Tom remarked that much like you can’t live your life as a hermit for fear you might be in a car accident upon leaving the house, so too we cannot live our lives in fear of ‘what ifs’.

Coach Tom previously served as head coach of the University of New Orleans (UNO) program and during his time there is when Hurricane Katrina hit. Coach Tom looks at his experiences with his UNO family in the same way he does his experiences at WFU and he attributes them to some form of divine intervention. More than anything, this story teaches us to stop questioning and worrying about ‘what ifs’ and to instead focus on doing the right thing, assuming you will be given the opportunity at the right time.

A combination of strength of character and a multitude of elements of chance for Kevin mean that instead of facing a lifetime of hardship, he has just 8 weeks of recovery time ahead of him. And if his past is any indication of his future, he is sure to continue as he has in the past– with passion and ambition to overcome even the most trying circumstances. And with any luck, he’ll be back on the diamond with his coach and family in no time.

View the video of today’s press conference with Kevin Jordan, Coach Tom, and the Emory Transplant Team.

Innovative Treatment for Bile Duct Cancer Being Offered at Emory Transplant Center

The Emory Transplant Center is the only transplant center in Atlanta or the state of Georgia, and one of a few places in the country, performing a novel, life-saving protocol to treat bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma). Cholangiocarcinoma is a lethal and aggressive cancer. Traditionally, the disease is treated with resection, surgically removing the tumor, but in many cases the cancer tends to continue to spread around the bile duct. In the past, patients with non-resectable bile duct cancer had little chance of survival.

The new protocol combines chemotherapy and radiation with a liver transplant, improving the likelihood of removing the entire source of cancer during surgery. The chemotherapy and radiation treat and sterilize the tumor bed, but using these options alone may eventually cause liver failure and thus the need for replacing the liver by performing a transplant.

Until recent years, patients diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma had few treatment options and little chance of survival. This new protocol offers hope and optimism to patients with this difficult disease. Learn more about treatment for bile duct cancer from the video below:

Transplant Nursing Pioneer Revisits Emory Transplant Center 45 Years Later

Millie Elliott, RN, MNNearly 45 years after she cared for Georgia’s first organ transplant recipient, Millie Elliott, 84, stepped through the doors of the Emory Transplant Center outpatient transplant clinic (OTC) for the first time to see how things have changed since her time at Emory. Elliott, who was Millie Burns at the time, worked at Emory University Hospital first as an obstetrics nurse, and then as head nurse of an NIH-sponsored clinical research unit at Emory from 1961 to 1967. She served as a dialysis nurse on this unit and may have been the Southeast’s first renal transplant coordinator.

During her recent visit to the transplant center, this former Cadet Nurse Corps nurse and World War II veteran regaled the transplant center staff and kidney transplant program director Dr. Thomas Pearson with her stories about the first transplant at Emory. Elliott recalled spending a lot of time researching medical sources to prepare herself and her nurses for that remarkable day, from learning about the best dialysis and sterilization practices to caring for patients in the OR and at the bedside. The first transplant patient was a 16-year-old boy with renal failure who received a donor kidney from his father.

Things were quite different in the world of kidney transplant back then. “We didn’t have outpatient dialysis centers in those days,” Elliott recalls. “Patients could only have dialysis in research centers, and we had to follow strict protocols. We had to notate each medication and chemically catalogue everything the patient ate and excreted. Not a drop of urine was lost in analysis.”

Dialysis patients would come to Emory regularly at 10-day intervals. An actual washing machine without the wringer and agitator served as the dialysis machine, and the hospital’s pharmacists prepared a special mix of chemicals to cleanse the blood. “We stirred the dry chemicals with our hands and mixed it with water,” she says. “The patient’s blood moved through an IV tube—the tube acted as a filter—into this chemical ‘bath’ and then into the machine. The process was very sterile.”

The first transplant patient stayed in an isolation room. “I suggested —and Dr. Garland Herndon [the research center's director] agreed— that we put a mat soaked with formaldehyde on the floor at the patient’s door, so that we didn’t track germs into his room on our shoes.”

After her time at the Emory Transplant Center, Elliott worked with Joy Bradley, a fellow Emory master’s program alumna, to apply for a grant to establish the largest associate’s degree nursing program in the U.S. at DeKalb College (now Perimeter College), and she later became its director. She also served as a federal government quality assurance nurse who helped develop regulations that established dialysis centers across the country. In addition, she created national nursing seminars and an educational film for physicians and nurses on maintaining infection control in dialysis centers.

Millie Elliott is a true example of the impact one person can have on medical innovation. Not only has she passed on this incredible nursing legacy to future generations—her daughter is a family nurse practitioner and her granddaughter is a pediatric ICU nurse—she also has helped pave the way for the nearly 3,500 kidney transplants the ETC has performed since the first one in 1966. We’re very proud of Millie Elliott’s efforts and the efforts of the Emory Transplant Center, a leading organ transplant program in the U.S.

Jo Ellen Kimball – the Miracle of Transplant

Jo Ellen Kimball became somewhat of an Emory University Hospital celebrity when she became Emory Healthcare’s 300th lung transplant patient since the lung transplant program‘s creation more than 17 years ago in 1993. In this video and slideshow, Kimball tells her story and thanks the transplant team and the family of the organ donor.

For more information on Emory Healthcare’s transplant program, visit our transplant center website.

Emory Transplant Program Milestone – 300 Lung Transplants

For a young mother of two teen-aged sons, living life attached to an oxygen tank is not an ideal situation. For Jo Ellen Kimball, 40, however, this was the life she had grown accustomed to living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a condition that essentially turns the lungs to stone. As Jo Ellen’s physician and Medical Director of Lung Transplantation at Emory Transplant Center, Dr. Clinton Lawrence puts it, “Imagine trying to breathe through lava rock every day of your life.” The five-year survival rate of IPF is less than 20% and as of now, lung transplantation is the only known treatment.

Since September 17th, however, Jo Ellen’s outlook on life and future has changed drastically. It was on this day that she underwent her double lung transplant at Emory University Hospital.

After the procedure, Jo Ellen was able to regain her ability to breathe on her own after only nine days, a remarkable achievement. And after six years of life spent facilitated by an oxygen tank, Jo Ellen Kimball can now return to a normal life and possibly even return to her position as a fourth grade teacher.

As if this positive momentous life change for Jo Ellen wasn’t enough, she was also informed that her procedure resulted in even further celebration– Jo Ellen’s procedure was the 300th lung transplant performed by Emory’s Transplant Program (established in 1993).

Much like the journey Jo Ellen has experienced to free herself from the constraints of IPF, Emory’s lung transplant program has traveled quite a distance in reaching this milestone. The program is not a high-volume transplant program when compared to Emory’s other solid organ transplant programs. In fact, in 2009, 35 lung transplants were performed by the program, its most ever in a single year and a 300% increase from a decade before.

With generous donations and the help of doctors like Clinton Lawrence and Jo Ellen’s surgeon and Surgical Director of Lung Transplantation at Emory Transplant Center, Dr. Seth Force, the lung transplant program continues to grow and gain momentum.

“Emory has the only lung transplant program in the state,” notes Dr. Lawrence. “We provide a necessary and quality service to individuals from all walks of life from Georgia and surrounding states, including Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, and Louisiana.”

After a few weeks of recovery at Emory, Jo Ellen has since returned home to Conyers, GA to rest and recover with her family. We will be sure to keep you updated on her journey.