Posts Tagged ‘transplant history’

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.”

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: http://www.emoryhealthcare.org/transplant-center/index.html target=”_blank”

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.