Posts Tagged ‘transplant’

Emory Transplant Center is a Top 10 Transplant Center in the U.S.

Living Organ Donation Donate Life MonthThe latest data from OPTN/UNOS of adult organ transplants performed in 2012 show that the Emory Transplant Center performed 426 transplants, making it the largest transplant center in the state and the 10th largest in the country. If we add the 60 pediatric transplants performed at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the ETC is the 5th largest transplant center in the country.

Of course, the ETC is much more than these numbers, but volume is one indication of just how busy our center is — and our programs are growing. In 2011, Emory performed 360 adult and 70 pediatric transplants. That means the total number of transplants increased 13% from 2011 to 2012. Each program is growing, too. The kidney program expanded from 204 transplants in 2011 to 230 in 2012, and the liver program grew from 93 transplants in 2011 to 111 in 2012. There were 11 kidney and pancreas transplants at the ETC in 2011 and 17 in 2012. The heart team transplanted 23 in 2011 and 34 in 2012, and the lung program transplanted 29 in 2011 and 34 in 2012.

This accomplishment never would have been possible without the gracious gifts of life organ donors provide to our transplant recipients. We are ever grateful to the donors who have indicated their wishes and the families that have made the decision to donate and save or restore the lives of our patients.

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When Living Organ Donation Means Living On Through Others

Living Organ Donation Donate Life MonthIn recognition of Donate Life month, the Emory Transplant Center was honored to have a very special speaker share an extraordinary story – one that touches the very heart of what it means to give the gift of life even in times of heartbreak.

Scott Haggard shared with Emory physicians and staff the story of his sister, Terri Haggard Wade – a loving 48 year old wife, mother, sister and daughter – who spent her professional career as a nurse.  And as part of the medical profession, Terri knew the importance of organ donation.  As a matter of fact, when her son was learning to drive, Terri said that before he could drive on his own, he would need to register to become an organ donor.

It was March of 2009 when Terri was rear ended in an automobile accident.  She began to experience headaches, and when they continued after a few weeks, Terri decided to go to an urgent care center to be evaluated. The urgent care center sent her to a nearby hospital to have a CT scan of her head.  And that was when they discovered Terri had a brain tumor.

On April 15, 2009, Terri had surgery to remove her tumor.  The surgery was more complicated than anticipated, and Terri did not wake up immediately after the surgery.  After ten days, Terri still had not awakened and her intracranial pressure spiked to very high levels, causing brain death.

At this time, Terri’s medical team approached her family asking them to make a very difficult decision.  They had to decide whether or not to allow Terri’s organs to be donated – they knew she wasn’t really with them anymore.

“We were never going to have Terri,” said Scott, “but to have her be able to help others, even in death, meant everything to us”.

To honor Terri’s wishes, her organs were donated, saving lives as she had done so many times before as a neonatal intensive care nurse at Egleston.  Terri was very loved among many – over 700 people were present at her funeral.

Although Scott knows that the individuals who received his sister’s organ are grateful for their gift of life, he says “It also means a lot to us, the donor family, to know that Terri is able to live through others”.

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Donate Life Month – Pros & Cons of Organ Donation

Since 2003, April has served as National Donate Life Month and provided the health and transplant communities with an entire month of local, regional and national activities to help support and raise awareness around organ donation.

Currently more than 115,000 men, women and children are awaiting organ transplants to save their lives. They’re in need of hearts, kidneys, livers, lungs, and other organs which can all be transplanted if donors were available, giving them a second chance at life. Understandably, potential donors may have reservations about organ donation, but we’ve compiled a list of pros and cons to help you with your decision of the gift of life.


  • ONE organ donor can save up to EIGHT lives. There are nearly 115,000 men, women and children waiting for an 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. Living people can donate a kidney, portions of the liver, lung, pancreas and intestines, as well as blood, and go on to live healthy lives. Most often it is relatives who do living tissue donation. It is possible, however, to register for completely humanitarian reasons and give organs to a stranger.


  • 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.
  • 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 become a donor and for more information visit Donate Life today.

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Emory Receives $20 Million Grant from NIH for Continued Transplant Research

Emory Transplant CenterIn the last few years, thanks to the development of anti-rejection drug therapies, outstanding breakthroughs in short-term outcomes have been achieved among organ transplant patients. We first introduced you to belatacept on our blog in September of 2010, while the medication was being studied by our team of doctors and researchers. Then in June of last year, we announced the FDA’s approval of belatacept and its confirmed ability to provide a less toxic alternative to the standard anti-rejection medications, including calcineurin inhibitors like cyclosporine.

Even with these developments, though, significant challenges remain for patients over the long term with organ rejection and drug toxicity that often leads to cardiovascular disease, infection or cancer.
To help overcome these challenges, a new $20 million grant has been bestowed upon Emory from the National Institute of Health to allow physician/researchers to develop better treatments for organ transplant recipients that help avoid both organ rejection and drug toxicity. The new grant builds upon more than 18 years of groundbreaking research by Emory scientists—such as the investigation into belatacept—that has already significantly advanced the transplant field.

Christian Larsen, Emory Transplant Center Director

Dr. Larsen

“Despite tremendous advances in immune drug therapy, the fact remains that organ recipients still must take immunosuppressant drugs over their lifetimes,” says Chris Larsen, MD, PhD, executive director of the Emory Transplant Center and principal investigator of the new grant. “Improvement in these transplant drugs is still a critical need for avoiding acute and late-stage rejection. Ultimately, we want to improve overall health while reducing cost through improved outcomes with fewer drugs.”

In addition to Dr. Larsen, project leaders from the Emory Transplant Center will include Allan D. Kirk, MD, PhD, scientific director of the Emory Transplant Center and a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar; Leslie Kean, MD, PhD, Emory associate professor of pediatrics and director of the Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Division of the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Stuart J. Knechtle, MD, surgical director of the liver transplant program at Emory Transplant Center and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and Andrew Adams, MD, PhD, assistant professor of surgery.

“The most important feature of this award is its support for multiple investigators attacking the problems of immunosuppression from different but complementary angles,” says Kirk. “The team science approach is the best way to get results to our patients.”

Several projects funded by the new grant will aim to develop more effective transplant drugs and strategies to avoid immunosuppressant drugs altogether.

An additional project will develop strategies to overcome immune sensitization in patients who have had previous transplants, pregnancies or blood transfusions. These patients often are not candidates for transplant because of their increased risk of rejection.

For more information about the Emory Transplant Center, its research projects and clinical programs please  use the Related Resources links below.

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Protect Yourself and Others This Flu Season

Flu Shot image

It’s flu season, which means time to prevent the spread and stop the influenza virus cold in its tracks. Everyone is capable of transmitting and contracting the flu virus, but transplant recipients are even more vulnerable to the flu and its complications than the general population. This is one of the many reasons our team at the Emory Transplant Center is committed to getting our patients—and our faculty and staff—vaccinated each year. Last year, the Emory Transplant Center and its infectious disease service alone administered 930 flu vaccines to pre- and post-transplant patients, which was about 90% of the patients we saw at the Transplant Center in 2011.

As part of the Emory Healthcare family, we are all dedicated to keeping our patients, their families and our colleagues safe. In the health care industry, it is inevitable that each year there will be patients who contract influenza from their health care workers. Required annual vaccinations against seasonal influenza for all Emory Healthcare employees is one important way we help to create and ensure a safe, healthy environment.

Below are the annual vaccination guidelines for our Emory Transplant Center patients and caregivers. Those who should get the seasonal flu shot include:

• Patients who have reached the three-month post-transplant mark by Sept. 1 or who will be three months post-transplant before March 31, 2013

• Individuals who have had a transplant between Sept. 1 and March 31 and have approval from their treating physicians

• Those who are undergoing evaluation for transplantation or are on a waiting list for a transplant

• Patients in heart failure

• Patients 65 years and older (may receive high dose vaccine)

• Transplant recipients, their family members and others in close contact with recipients (should receive the injectable flu vaccine instead of the FluMist® nasal spray)

• All Emory Transplant Center faculty and staff


Help Us Honor Nurse Allison Batson and Her Gift of Life – Vote Today!

Nurse Allison Batson, Patient Clay Taber

Nurse Allison Batson with Clay Taber

Every once in awhile, you meet someone so special that they become part of you forever. For 23-year-old Emory kidney transplant patient Clay Taber, that person is Allison Batson – literally.

A few months ago, we told you the story of a transplant nurse at Emory University Hospital, Allison, and her selfless donation of one of her kidneys to Taber last January, a gift that likely saved him months on dialysis — if not his life. Allison and Clay met when he was an inpatient at Emory University Hospital fighting a rare disease called Goodpasture’s Syndrome, a life-threatening autoimmune disorder characterized by kidney disease and lung hemorrhage. Allison saw more than a patient in Clay.  She saw her own children, all close to Clay’s age.

“I learned more about Clay, his family, his life, what he saw for his future,” Allison recalls. “He wanted to get married to his sweetheart. He’d 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.”

Though Clay’s blood type is rare, Allison was tested to be a donor and proved to be a match. On Tuesday, January 10th, Allison’s kidney was removed and transplanted into Clay’s body. Nearly half a year later, Clay has recovered well, even finding a weekend in June to marry his college love.

Though Allison has never asked for special treatment or even a hint of recognition, her colleagues recently submitted her profile to Johnson  & Johnson’s Amazing Nurses Contest. She was selected as one of 10 finalists. Voting is now up to the public. If Allison wins, she’ll receive a trip for two to Los Angeles to attend the 2012 CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute live broadcast show, courtesy of CNN.  Though a trip to sunny LA is quite a prize, Allison has a bigger gift in mind.

“I am once again humbled by this nomination and very excited to be recognized,” says Allison. “But more than that, my hopes for this contest are that it will spread the word about the Living Donor program.  There are more than 90,000 Americans on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. That’s 90,000 too many. Relatives, loved ones, friends and even strangers can give this lifesaving gift.”

To vote for Allison, visit Voters can cast one vote per day until Sept. 28. The winner will be announced December 2 at the CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute live broadcast.

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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.”

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Families Pay Forward the Gift of Life in Emory’s Paired Exchange Program

Paired Exchange Tiffany Prevo Mark VillantiAs a personal trainer and general manager of Workout Anytime in Decatur, GA, Mark Villanti believes being healthy and living life to the fullest is a top priority. Fitness is Mark’s passion and he especially enjoys running ultra-marathons and helping his clients get into shape. One day, a client of Mark’s mentioned that her husband was in need of a kidney transplant and that neither she nor any other loved one was a match. Mark got to thinking, ‘what if I became a donor?’ Coincidentally, back in college as a Sports Science major, Mark conducted research on renal failure and gained a keen understanding of what physical limitations a person on dialysis experiences – being tied to a dialysis machines for hours at a time, multiple times during the week. When his client mentioned her husband’s need for a kidney, in some way Mark felt it was a spiritual message.

“I have always loved to help and protect people; my wife would say that I am a very giving person. Being a combat veteran of the US Marine Corp and the US Army, serving in the Iraq war, and losing both parents in the past 5 years made me realize how important life and living is.”’

Knowing what a dialysis patient is up against on a daily basis and thinking about his client’s husband’s need, Mark began the matching process and was approved to be a donor. But while in the process, Mark’s client’s husband received a kidney from another donor. Instead of returning back to his daily life and forgetting the notion of donating, Mark decided to continue the process to become an altruistic donor.

When he was contacted by Emory informing him they found a matching patient candidate, Mark learned only that she was a woman in her 30s needing a kidney and that she was a part of the Paired Exchange Program through the Emory Transplant Center. This program was established to help pay forward the gift of donating life, meaning that when Mark donated his kidney to the recipient, the recipient’s loved one would then donate their kidney to another person in need since there was not a compatible blood match. In a paired exchanged donation, a donor and recipient are matched with another incompatible donor and recipient pair, and the kidneys are exchanged.

Mark’s recipient Tiffany Prevo, wife and mother of three daughters (a 9 yr old and 5 yr old twins), was diagnosed with Lupus in 2008, which led to her end stage renal failure. Tiffany’s doctor told her that she would either need dialysis treatment for the remainder of her life, or that a kidney transplant was an option. Tiffany decided to be placed on the transplant waiting list. While waiting, Tiffany underwent peritoneal dialysis which tied her to a machine for eight hours every day.

“The dialysis treatments made me very emotional. I was up and down and just borderline depressed. I wanted a transplant right away – I couldn’t work and worse of all, I couldn’t do things with my daughters.”

Jemel, Tiffany’s husband, and other members of her family went through the matching process but were not eligible. Jemel immediately offered to be a part of the paired exchange program to accelerate Tiffany’s chance of receiving a kidney. Tiffany waited 18 months before she received the call from Emory stating they found Mark, her donor match.

On the day of transplant, Tiffany felt calm, asking herself, “Is this really happening?”. As Mark went in to have his kidney removed, he was not afraid at all. As a matter of fact, he felt excitement and was “ready to get this done to help this woman.” And finally there was Jemel, who also had surgery on that same day to donate to a child that he has never met.

All surgeries were successful. As Mark was recovering from his surgery at Emory University Hospital, he was up walking the halls as requested by his doctor, Dr. Nicole Turgeon. “As I walked past a room in the hall, I looked in and saw a woman. She looked back at me and we both thought, could this be the person?” As a matter of fact, Jemel and Mark were recovering in patient rooms right next to one another, and by chance a meeting of the three occurred. There were many smiles, hugs and tears of joy. Mark knew he had given the gift of live.
With words of wisdom to others who may be considering becoming a living donor, Mark says, “With anything else you have to look at the pros and the cons; in my case there were no cons. I knew I could live with just one kidney so I went for it. Life is a gift God has given us.”

Tiffany is very thankful to Mark stating, “I’ve never met such an amazing kind hearted man in person. You see it on TV or hear about it on the news but I never thought it would happen to me – I’m really grateful to Mark”. As for her husband, “Well he’s my hero. Without him all this wouldn’t have been possible – he’s amazing too.”
Two weeks post surgery, Mark was already back to one of his favorite pastime’s, running on the trails. Fast forward two months later to today, and Mark is training for another ultra marathon in September, where he will run 35 miles. He is back to his normal day to day activity and feeling great.

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Celebrating the Gift of Life – Donate Life Month

Since 2003, April has served as National Donate Life Month and provided the health and transplant communities with an entire month of local, regional and national activities to help support and raise awareness around organ donation and celebrate those who have given the gift of life to others by donating. We’ve seen some amazing gifts of generosity here at Emory since National Donate Life Month last year, and in honor of the month, we’d like to celebrate those members of our community who have truly given of themselves in an effort to save the lives of others.

Pamela Emory Employee Living Donor

Pamela Lesane

We kicked off Donate Life Month last year with the help of Pamela Lesane, an Emory Healthcare employee and now patient, after making a very generous gift to her own sister. After beginning her career with Emory Healthcare in Guest Services, Pamela came into contact with a transplant coordinator who asked her if her sister, who had suffered from kidney disease all her life, had ever been evaluated for a transplant. She had not, so Pamela helped her push forward in getting evaluated and her sister was placed on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. It turned out Pamela would be a match for her sister’s transplant, and the rest is history. You can read more on Pamela’s story here.

Shortly after Pamela was able to help bring renewed life to her sister via organ donation, six lives at Emory were saved by as a result of a selfless donation from one man, Jon Pomenville, from Anderson, South Carolina. 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 did and he wasn’t looking for credit. In fact he was completely comfortable with remaining anonymous throughout the process. But during a follow-up visit to Emory University Hospital, Jon met many of the individuals whose lives he helped change – 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. Share Jon’s story.

Lester Crowell

Lester Crowell

Many of our transplant community members are recipients of organ donations themselves and have opted to find ways to give back to others in need. Lester Crowell, is a fantastic example of an Emory Transplant patient who took giving back to a whole new level. Lester is a two-time recipient of a donated heart, and as a heart transplant patient, he shared the love in a major way by holding an event to help raise awareness and over $30,000 for the Georgia Transplant Foundation. Check out Lester’s story in this video and blog post.

Kevin Jordan Wake Forest Kidney Transplant at Emory

Coach Tom Walter & Kevin Jordan

We’ve seen family members give to family members, anonymous givers donate life to change the lives of others, and a transplant patient who gave back to the community, but one story, that of Kevin Jordan and Coach Tom Walter of Wake Forest University was an especially touching one for us here at Emory. In February of 2011, we shared Part I of their story. 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. In October of this year, just 7 months later, Kevin was able to return to practice at the sport he loves thanks to the generous gift of Coach Tom. Share their story here.

Clay Taber, Transplant Patient with Nurse Allison Batson

Clay Taber & Allison Batson

The giving back here at Emory continued when just a few months ago, our own transplant nurse, Allison Batson, gave of herself, literally, to 23-year-old patient, Clay Taber, who was in desperate need of a kidney transplant. “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. “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.” Share Allison and Clay’s story here.

We are so grateful to the steps that have been taken by the Emory transplant community to celebrate and give the gift of life. Countless lives are changed at the Emory Transplant Center every year because of selfless gifts of those in our community. In honor of Donate Life Month, we will help to spotlight some of these very special stories in the weeks to come. If you have your own story to share, or just want to give thanks to those here who have given the gift of life, please use the comments section below.

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