You wouldn’t know it looking at her today, but a little more than a year ago, Stacy was at Emory University Hospital facing the possibility that she wouldn’t be going home. A diagnosis of cirrhosis in January 2020 had led to one health problem after another.
“She was in multiorgan failure,” says Ravi Vora, MD, an Emory Healthcare transplant hepatologist who is Stacy’s doctor. “Her kidneys were starting to show significant injury. Her liver was already severely injured, as well.”
Stacy had also been dealing with jaundice, bleeding ulcers and swelling in her legs that got so bad she could barely walk. She realized things were getting serious.
“I knew I needed to get someplace that would be able to help me,” says Stacy. And she found that place at Emory Healthcare.
From Bad News to Good
It was early April when Stacy got a call informing her that a telehealth appointment with Dr. Vora through Emory Connected Care was available. And she was grateful, since COVID-19 had made getting an in-person doctor visit challenging at a time when she needed expert medical care the most.
Based on the video call and earlier blood work that confirmed how sick she was, Dr. Vora arranged for Stacy to be admitted to the hospital that day.
“So, we admitted her to our liver transplant service, not only to manage her acute issues, but also to think about an expedited liver transplant evaluation while she was in the hospital,” says Dr. Vora.
When she heard how serious her condition was, Stacy was open to the evaluation.
“We were able to get all of her testing done in pretty record time, I would say, for somebody that sick,” says Dr. Vora.
Even though Stacy recognized the severity of her disease, what she learned in the hospital was difficult.
“It was probably a week and a half [later] when I was told I would not leave the hospital unless I did have a transplant,” Stacy recalls. “So, that was very hard news.”
Fortunately, good news followed.
“It wasn’t very long after that I was told there was a liver available,” she says. “And I got my liver on April 19.”
Nationally Recognized Liver Transplant Care
The Emory transplant program is ranked among the nation’s best. In total, we’ve performed more than 10,000 solid organ transplants at the Emory Transplant Center, giving us experience few other centers can match. More than 2,700 of these have occurred through our Liver Transplant Program.
Emory is an international leader in liver transplant research and offers treatments that only a limited number of transplant centers in the U.S do. The hospital is also the only one in Georgia to provide an intensive care unit (ICU) that focuses on liver failure and liver transplant.
“Having a dedicated liver ICU really makes a positive impact for our patients,” says Dr. Vora.
The Liver ICU makes it easier to identify issues at an earlier point and enables staff to provide care that helps critically ill patients make it to transplant. Once they receive their new liver, patients do very well. The most recent statistics show that at Emory we treat people who tend to be sicker than average liver failure patients. But at 96 percent, our one-year survival rate for liver transplant patients is higher than the national average.
A New Chance at Life
Stacy has come a long way from hearing she might not leave the hospital. Today, she’s doing well. And what makes her story even more remarkable is that she went from having her first telehealth appointment sitting in her living room to getting her liver transplant in just 17 days.
That speed is not uncommon at Emory. In 2020, more than half of all liver failure patients received their new liver within one month of being placed on the organ donation list.
“From the very first appointment that morning to the second I walked out of the hospital on the 25th, everything went smoothly and everyone at Emory was helpful.”
Thank you’s aren’t adequate to express her gratitude, she says. But she does want Dr. Vora to know what his care has meant to her.
“I appreciate him giving me a chance,” she says. “Giving me a chance to be a mom again. Be a sister. Be a daughter. Just giving me a chance to be able to walk out of the hospital.”
For more information about the Emory Transplant Center, visit emoryhealthcare.org/transplant or call 855-366-7989.
About Emory Transplant Center
As one of the top 15 transplant centers in the nation, Emory Transplant Center is at the forefront of clinical excellence and pioneering new transplant therapies. The center offers cutting-edge technology and superior outcomes in heart, kidney, liver, lung and pancreas transplant surgeries. Emory Transplant Center, a part of Emory Healthcare, has performed more than 10,000 transplants to date and all solid organ programs meet Transplant Centers of Excellence quality outcome criteria. The center’s core mission is to provide exceptional care for patients in need of organ transplants while offering access to the latest advances in the field of transplant medicine.