Posts Tagged ‘transplant patient’

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

 

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

Terri Lynne Transplant Patient & Dr. Dodson Transplant Surgeon

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

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

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

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

Terri finished the marathon in 6 hours and 6 minutes.

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

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

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

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.

One Good Transplant Deed Leads to Six Changed Lives

Imagine waking up one morning in good health and deciding out of the goodness of your heart to donate your kidney to someone you didn’t even know – anyone, anywhere. That’s exactly what Jon Pomenville of Anderson, SC, did recently. Little did he know, it would result in the drastic change of the lives of six individuals and their families.

Jon wasn’t looking for credit. In fact he was completely comfortable with remaining anonymous throughout the process. But during a recent visit to Emory University Hospital for a post-surgical follow-up, Jon met many of the individuals whose lives were changed – right there in the transplant clinic waiting room. Jon and four of the other donors and recipients in what is referred to as a paired kidney transplant were coincidentally scheduled for follow-up appointments within a short period of time of one another. It was only a matter of minutes before the patients – recipients and donors – two father and son combinations and Jon, the man who would give to anyone – were hugging, shaking hands, and recounting their lives and experiences. As one person began recounting the experience, eyes and ears began to focus on the tale being told from across a crowded room.

The Emory Transplant Center opened its Paired Donor Kidney Exchange Program in 2009, providing greater hope for patients in need of kidney transplants. A paired exchange donation is a process that allows healthy individuals to donate a kidney to either a friend, loved one, or even altruistically to a stranger, as was the case with Jon, despite incompatible blood matches. In paired donation, a donor and recipient are matched with another incompatible donor and recipient pair and the kidneys are exchanged between the pairs.

Paired donation is another form of living donor transplantation, which means the donated organ may come from a living person such as a friend, spouse or family member. Donated kidneys also come from recently deceased donors. While most kidneys from deceased donors function well, studies have shown that a kidney from a living donor, either a blood relative or an unrelated person, provides the greatest chance for long-term success.

Because of Jon’s donation, a young 7 year-old boy named Zion received a life-saving kidney from an unrelated donor because his dad, Mike, was able to donate. And Gerald Smith of Five Points, AL, received his life-changing kidney transplant because his son, Matt, a recent University of Alabama graduate, donated his kidney – to Zion. And lastly, 20 year-old Edward Hill of Macon, GA a young man with a history of health challenges, would also receive his kidney transplant (from an unknown donor) at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta – completing the six-person cycle.

6 Person Paired Kidney Exchange

The decision Jon made to altruistically donate his kidney to a any person, anywhere set off a chain reaction that has drastically improved and changed lives. As the mother of one kidney recipient put it, “when we received that call a few weeks ago, it truly was a miracle. The donor program at Emory is an incredible thing that will help many people like my son, and I am as thankful as anyone could ever be because of it.”

The donor program at Emory is incredible, but without people like Jon Pomenville, and generous selfless acts of kindness such as his decision to donate his kidney, stories like this would not be possible. For more on this amazing story and the lives touched by Jon’s decision to donate, watch our short video below:

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.