Posts Tagged ‘transplantation’

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.

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.

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:

Belatacept Transplant Drug Offers Hope for Preserving Kidney Function

Today, kidney transplantation provides patients with invaluable benefits—it prolongs lifespan and restores vitality and health. However, this hasn’t always been the case. As recently as the 1980s, results of transplants were fairly poor, and kidneys were often lost from rejection. In 1983, the cyclosporine class of drugs entered the equation, revolutionizing transplantation. Short-term outcomes improved greatly, and we expected most of our patients to survive with a functioning graft—90% of them at the 1-year mark.

Unfortunately, while cyclosporine is ideal for short-term outcomes, it causes many side effects that affect long-term outcomes in patients. Cyclosporine is toxic to the kidney—over time, this causes excess scarring and eventually even leads to loss of kidney function.

In approximately one-third of patients, cyclosporine causes post-transplant diabetes, requiring most patients to take blood pressure lowering medications. Additionally, most must take medications to lower their cholesterol. (High blood pressure and increased cholesterol counts are both side effects of cyclosporine.) Ultimately, patients must take the anti-rejection drugs along with a host of other drugs to combat the side effects, all of which can lead to death from cardiovascular disease. On average, the kidney transplant patient survival rate is only 8-10 yrs, which is clearly short of what we’d like to see.

Sufficed to say, there’s been a tremendous need for better drugs to prevent rejection in kidney transplants, without causing life-threatening side effects.

Introducing Belatacept

When kidney patients suffer from transplant rejection, the immune system essentially recognizes the new kidney as a foreign object, causing lymphocytes and T-cells to attack, and generating immune damage to the transplant. Consequently, we introduce drugs to dampen the immune system. The issue with cyclosporine is that it doesn’t just affect the immune response; it hits several other targets throughout the body, causing the negative side effects. Fortunately, there’s hope on the horizon with a newer drug called belatacept.

Like Cyclosporine, belatacept blocks the immune system from transplant rejection. However, the target of belatacept is only expressed in the immune system, so it suppresses undesired immune responses of rejection without the off target side effects (e.g. high blood pressure, increased cholesterol and diabetes) seen with Cyclosporine. We refer to these off-target responses as “costimulatory signals”.

In transplantation, our goal is to achieve a normal life span for our patients, and to ideally have them move on from surgery dialysis-free. At Emory, we’ve dedicated years to developing new and improved therapies that avoid major complications from kidney transplants, including cardiovascular issues, infections and malignancies.

Recent belatacept studies indicate that this drug could quite possibly help us in achieving these goals. Over 1400 patients have been studied with belatacept’s use in kidney transplant, and the results continue to be extremely promising. Further, the drug could conceivably have advantages for other types of organ transplantation, including liver, heart, lung, and intestinal.

Do you have any questions about belatacept, or about kidney transplantation in general? If so, please let me know in the comments.