Thanking Donors with All of Our Heart

By: Hope Gamper, Editorial Intern

Most people know February 14th as Valentine’s Day,  but February 14th also shares the honor of being National Donor Day. National Donor Day honors donors of organs, tissues, marrow, platelets and blood. This Valentine’s Day, consider giving the gift of life to someone in need and celebrate the amazing generosity of former donors.

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A Great Need for Organ Donors

Every 10 minutes, someone is added to the waiting list for an organ. While UMMC offers multiple listing, potentially allowing a patient to receive an organ sooner, the need for donors is still great.

As the demand for organs rises, so does the need for organ donors. There are two types of organ donors: deceased donors and living donors, and both play an important role in healing someone in need.

A donation from a deceased individual can save as many as 8 lives and the process is facilitated by the Living Legacy Foundation. Deceased donors can provide tissues, corneas and organs such as the kidneys, pancreas, liver, lungs, heart and intestines. Donations are only considered after all life-saving efforts have been exhausted. To prepare for this type of donation, update your driver’s license donor status through the MVA.

The living organ donation process allows living individuals the ability to donate whole kidneys or parts of the liver, pancreas, lungs and intestines. Most of these organs either regenerate on their own or can function without a small portion. Receiving a transplant from a living donor is often an alternative to waiting on the national transplant waiting list. Learn more about living donation for a loved one.

Where Donations Go

Transplant surgeons at UMMC perform a total of more than 420 transplants, but there are currently more than 123,000 people in need of lifesaving transplants. You may direct a donation to a specific individual or your donation may go to the next eligible person on the waiting list. Patients who receive your donation will be matched based on an array of factors including blood type and severity of illness.

To those in need, donating an organ is an indescribable gift.  Successful UMMC transplant recipients for heart, kidney, lungliver and other conditions, have gone on to live joyfully once again.

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To the Heart of the Matter – Ways You Can Help

  • Consider giving the gift of life this Donor Day. Learn more about providing a living donation for a loved one from the UMMC Transplant Center.
  • Become an organ donor by opting in the next time you renew your driver’s license or filling out the online registry form here: https://register.donatelifemaryland.org/
  • Sign up with the Red Cross for a UMMC blood drive to donate blood or platelets.

And most importantly, thank an organ donor and their heroic and truly altruistic gift that has given thousands of people a second chance at life.

Nurses Run for their ‘Heart Kids’

By Jen Arrington, MS, RN, CPN, and Kristen Fantel, BSN, RN, CEN

On Oct. 12, 17 nurses and friends of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) will be running in the Baltimore Running Festival to raise money for the UMMC Children’s Heart Program. When people ask us why we run, there’s one easy answer. We run for patients like Brandon Kerrigan and all of the heart kids that we care for everyday.

When Brandon celebrated his 15th birthday on Aug. 16, no one had any idea that two days later he would be fighting for his life. Brandon was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, and went into cardiac arrest while being flown from Easton to the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital. Once Brandon was stabilized, his family was told that he would need a heart transplant. Since his arrival to the PICU, Brandon has been determined to get strong while he waits for his heart. He charms the nurses and staff with his bright smile and Nerf guns, just trying to be a normal 15-year-old, while cooped up in the hospital. You can see how charming he is in this picture of us with him at the bottom of our team page.

Brandon is only one example of a patient we are running for. We care for many cardiac patients in collaboration with the Children’s Heart Program. This program provides comprehensive cardiac care for children with a wide range of conditions — from rhythm abnormalities to childhood hypertension, from heart murmurs to serious birth defects requiring complicated heart surgery. While we care for these complex patients, they quickly become a part of our unit – we offer an encouraging smile to their parents in the hallway, we say our silent prayers. And on good days – we dodge Nerf guns as we enter the patient’s room.

The strength and resilience of these children, who battle against all odds, is simply inspiring. As nurses, we are often left with the feeling of wanting to do more. We carefully assess these patients for any changes in condition, we give medications, we advocate for their every need, and we attempt to play and create normalcy whenever we can. But we want to do more.

This is why we decided to run as part of the Children’s Heart Team. We don’t have a miracle drug and we can’t take away the heartache in the eyes of the parents of these patients. But we can run.

As with all of the patients we care for, the teamwork involved in the care of these patients is also inspiring. The team includes Nurses, Doctors, Child Life Specialists, Respiratory Therapists, OR and Cath Lab Staff, Rehabilitation Services – and many, many other people who deserve to be celebrated.

This strong team work was the inspiration for our fundraising efforts. We created a T-shirt that recognizes this team effort, and we are selling the T-shirt around the hospital in order to raise money for the Children’s Heart Program.

In addition to the shirt, we are also hosting a fundraiser at a local restaurant. Join us on Wednesday, Oct. 2, at Blue Hill Tavern in Canton. The restaurant will be donating 20% of its proceeds from the day to our cause. Schedule a lunch with your co-workers, dinner with your family, or join the PICU nurses for Happy Hour – and help an important cause.

Want to join us in our effort to do more? Contact us! Maybe today we can give back a little bit of the inspiration that we have received from these amazing children.

To make a donation: http://www.ummsfoundation.org/picuheart

The ‘Seeker’ Gives Through a Living Kidney Donation

Matthew Taylor writes about “living an authentic life in a world of artifice” in his blog, “The Seeker.” This week, he posted a frank and engaging piece about donating one of his kidneys to his wife, who suffered from polycystic kidney disease.  Here’s an excerpt:

“After some soul searching, I decided to give her one of mine. It was not an easy decision to make since there were many factors to consider, but I am at peace with it now. In fact, I’ve come to appreciate some things about a kidney transplant that I never would have thought of before.”

Taylor, a writer who lives in Rockville, Md., gave the University of Maryland Medical Center, where his donation and his wife’s transplant were performed, permission to direct readers to his post,  “25 Ways to Appreciate a Kidney Transplant.”

The University of Maryland Medical Center is home to the second-largest kidney transplant program in the country. The surgeons involved in Taylor’s donation and his wife’s transplant were Michael Phelan, MD; David Leeser, MD; and Stephen Bartlett, MD.

A Gift of Life and Friendship After a Family’s Loss

The weekly StoryCorps segment on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition is a highlight for the show’s listeners. Today’s StoryCorps interview was very special to staff at UMMC.

Rick Bounds received a lifesaving liver and kidney transplant here in 2007. Today, he’s a healthy triathlete with four competitions and a 100-mile bike ride to his name. And he serves as a member of the Medical Center’s Patient and Family Partnership Council.

Go to the NPR site to hear or read the conversation between Rick Bounds and Dorothy Biernack, whose husband, Marty, was the organ donor who made it possible for Rick to live. Rick and Dorothy get together several times a year to celebrate Marty’s lifesaving final gift.

Man Celebrates Six-Year Anniversary of Heart Transplant during April’s Donate Life Month

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When I first found out that I needed a heart transplant, I didn’t believe it. I was in denial since I was in such good shape all of my life. I hardly even got a cold. I couldn’t believe that my heart was giving out.

Ten years ago after years of being an avid runner, I was growing more and more tired. I went to my general doctor who did an EKG, and he found something abnormal. It was determined that the right electrical node in my heart was not firing correctly, so I had a pacemaker put in. I continued running for the next two years. Then the same problem occurred on the left side of my heart and another pacemaker was put in.

After four years and two pacemakers, my heart started to completely deteriorate. I had an interview with Dr. Erika Feller who determined that I was a transplant candidate. I was added to the transplant waiting list and admitted to UMMC. Throughout the week they had to run tests on me. While at the hospital, I went into cardiac arrest, and I was upgraded to a pump. A couple days later a match was found. I felt great and relieved; it was only five days between the cardiac arrest and the time I got my new heart.

I didn’t wake up initially after the transplant. The toxins in my blood were at such a high level that they brought me into exploratory surgery where they discovered that I also needed my gall bladder removed.

Recovery was pretty good for me. The doctors and staff at UMMC were great. They took good care of me and got me up and walking soon after the surgeries. Two weeks after the transplant I returned home and continued walking around my community. In less than three months after my transplant, I was able to return to work.

It has been six years since my transplant, and I’m able to run again. Every weekend I go walking with the guys in the neighborhood, about 4 to 5 miles. I am also very passionate about sailing. I sail a fair amount and send Dr. Feller a picture of me on my boat every April, which is the anniversary of my transplant.

I would highly recommend that people indicate they want to be organ donors on their driver’s license. Organs are greatly needed, and you may save someone’s life. You never know when tragedy may strike or when your health may deteriorate. But even with a sad tragedy, some good can come out of it. If it had not been for the generosity and foresight of my donor, I probably would not be here.

Young Accountant Reaches Professional Milestone One Year After Living Donor Liver Transplant

By Jennifer Dietrick

Baltimore, MD

FEBRUARY 18, 2013 — As of today, I am officially one year post-op! One year ago, Dr. Barth and Dr. LaMattina had finished the living donor liver transplantation that saved my life!  When the doctors returned to the waiting room to update my family, the entire room erupted in applause! My boyfriend, Rob, was the donor.  Here’s what I’ve been up to in the past year:

I’ve been very busy with work. Being an accountant, this is our busiest time of the year so I am trying really hard to keep up. My biggest goal is to become a CPA (Certified Public Accountant). The test is VERY difficult. It is split into 4 grueling sections which require about 2 months of intensive studying each, while working a full-time schedule.

Before I went into acute liver failure, I had passed 2 parts of the exam (halfway!) but unfortunately, all 4 parts of the exam must be passed within an 18-month time frame. I lost the 2 parts that I had passed during the past year while I was focusing on my recovery. It was very disappointing. In December of 2012, I finally started getting some energy back after struggling with persistent anemia and a hematocrit between 28-30 (36 is normal). I studied really hard during the holidays and took 1 part on January 4 and I just found out that I PASSED!! Now I am on my way again to achieving my goal — and I am only 1 year post-op.

It’s such a wonderful feeling! During the past year, my recovery was really difficult and it seemed like I would never get better and now, 1 year out, I am down to 2 pills, twice a day and living a completely normal life!

I wanted to share this with other patients in hopes that it may provide some hope for anyone recovering or for those who have loved ones recovering from transplants or any other major surgery. There IS a light at the end of the tunnel and it is frustrating getting there but if you keep on working at it, you WILL go on to live the life you imagined and more!

You don’t have to be defined by the fact that you are a transplant recipient or let it hold you back from accomplishing your goals and dreams! Yes, I received a liver transplant but hopefully in the future I will be defined as Jennifer Dietrick, CPA!!

 

UMMC Mentorship Plants Seeds of Discovery With Local Student

by Lauren Goldschen

As a rising senior at Atholton High School in Howard County in August of 2010, I was excited to start my Intern/Mentor Program provided through my school. This program encourages students within the Gifted and Talented Program to apply for internships/mentorships with professionals who hold careers students admire. I’ve always wanted to become a doctor, and I envisioned my mentor as a local physician who would teach me how to schedule patients and take vital signs.  I did not anticipate that the reality of my internship would actually entail observing transplant surgeries and becoming a published author in the #1 peer-reviewed surgery journal, Annals of Surgery.

Finding a mentor for the program was certainly a struggle as I applied to numerous physicians throughout the area. My high school teacher, Mrs. Natalie Kelly, and I received numerous rejections from local physicians. I stumbled upon the University of Maryland Medical Center’s (UMMC) website, which conveniently listed physicians’ names with contact information and their ongoing research projects. I selected a variety of doctors and sent emails explaining the intern/mentor program and asking if they would serve as my mentor.

Although I anticipated more negative feedback, I was amazed that multiple doctors at UMMC responded and agreed to participate as my mentor. It was even more incredible that the first positive response came from Dr. Stephen Bartlett,  Peter Angelos Distinguished Professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Chair, Department of Surgery at UMMC, and Surgeon-in-Chief and Vice President of the University of Maryland Medical System, who graciously agreed to serve as my mentor.

On my first day with Dr. Bartlett, I watched him perform a kidney transplant. And on my second day, I met Dr. Bartlett’s colleague,  Dr. Rolf Barth, assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and transplant surgeon at UMMC, who would become another one of my mentors.

My internship project was to compare patient satisfaction rates of living kidney donors who donated via the novel single-port donor nephrectomy versus living donors who donated via the standard multiple port technique. UMMC’s single-port donor nephrectomy utilizes a single incision in the belly button to remove a kidney from living donors. UMMC was the only the third hospital in the country to adopt this single incision donation technique as the standard of care for all living kidney donors.

The UMMC transplant team believed that this technique, which is more cosmetically appealing and less invasive, could attract more living kidney donors and help decrease the growing kidney transplant wait list. But before the procedure could be promoted, the surgeons first needed to determine if donors preferred this novel single-incision procedure to the standard multiple port procedure.

I began my internship project by writing a survey for living kidney donors that addressed their pain levels after donation and satisfaction rates with the overall donation process. The surveys were distributed to UMMC donors of both the novel single-port and the standard procedure. Read about the survey data that were published in the Annals of Surgery.

My internship was extremely rewarding and memorable, and I’m continuing my internship with the transplant team now as a college student. I enjoy accompanying the doctors on hospital rounds and observing the transplant surgeons interact with their patients. There have been numerous teachable moments, especially in the operating room in which I get to learn about anatomy from a truly unique perspective. I also value the advice that both Dr. Bartlett and Dr. Barth share with me regarding college decisions and future medical career plans.

Although I always knew I wanted to be a doctor, I had never before considered the research aspect of medicine. However, this internship experience has certainly sparked my research curiosity. Currently, I work in a cell biology lab studying the aging process of kidneys, and this summer I am again working at UMMC with Dr. Bartlett and Dr. Barth to investigate the transplant results of different immunosuppressant drugs.

This fall I will be a sophomore Biology Major/Spanish Minor at the University of Pittsburgh. I plan to attend medical school, and due to the wonderful opportunities provided by Dr. Bartlett, Dr. Barth, and the UMMC team, I know that research will always be a fundamental part of my medical career.

UMMC Kidney Transplant Team Hangs on for Dear Life

Contributed by Michelle Klein
Pre-Transplant Coordinator, UMMC Division of Transplantation

Scared. Panicked. Frightful.

What am I doing?

These were some of the feelings I was having in the final moments before I rappelled 32 stories from the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel on Saturday, June 9, 2012.  I am scared of roller coasters and water slides. I won’t even ride Space Mountain at Disney World, yet here I was for the second year, strapped into a harness, about to dangle from 32 stories high to benefit Rappel for Kidney Health, a fundraising event hosted by the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland.

Yet as the rappel volunteers lowered me off the roof, a sense of calm came over me. Instead of being scared, all I could think about was how much my jump, along with the rest of the rappellers, was giving someone else a shot at a new life.

I thought about how fearful and scared some of my patients are when facing surgery to receive a transplanted organ or how they feel when they find out for the first time that their kidney failed without warning. I thought about how many trials and tribulations my patients go through even before they reach transplant surgery. I thought about how the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland, through donations and events like this one, is able help so many patients, especially the ones I work with daily at UMMC.

I remembered how excited I was to tell Kelly Meltzer (Director of the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland) that I am not rapelling alone this year – that I had convinced three more people to join me because they also believe in the mission. My fellow team members from UMMC included Deb Evans, Heather Hurley and Michele Postol. I had such a great experience last year that I volunteered to be part of the Rappel for Kidney Health Committee for this year.

These thoughts overpowered any fear I had about rappelling 32 stories. As I made my way down the side of the Marriott, a funny thing happened, I actually began to enjoy it! It was great to have to a bird’s eye view of the Inner Harbor and the water.  It was an honor to be part of the Rappel for Kidney Health event and I can’t wait for next year’s jump!

Here are some key kidney facts from the National Kidney Foundation:

  • More than 90,000 people are on the waitlist for a kidney transplant.
  • 10 people die each day while waiting for a kidney transplant.
  • 26 million Americans have chronic kidney disease, and most don’t know it.
  • Every 5 minutes, someone’s kidney fails.
  • More than 380,000 people depend on dialysis for survival.

As a Pre-Transplant coordinator at the University of Maryland for 6+ years, I am honored to be a part of this institution. We have surgeons who are so technically advanced that they can care for the most complex patients when other centers can’t offer them any options. I have the pleasure of working with the pre- transplant coordinators, assistants, and nurses who live and breathe transplant all day, every day.

I believe that early detection of kidney disease, having a living donor transplant when possible, and getting an early referral to the transplant division can help kidney transplant patients have their best outcomes.

We are still raising money to help fight kidney disease, so feel free to donate to our UMMC Transplant team.

Rappel on!

 

 

 

 

 

Living Donor Fundraiser Exceeds $10,000!

In follow-up to a post from Marla Blackwell on living kidney donation, we are grateful to report that the 4th annual ‘Night with Nashville’ concert and fundraiser reached a new milestone by raising more than $10,000 on September 8!

Guests partied the night away to country tunes from recording artists Megan Mullins and James Wesley, and lucky bidders walked away with silent auction memorabilia from stars like Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert, Sara Evans, Justin Moore, Jewel, and Alabama.

These funds will help support the Living Donor Follow-Up Clinic, which provides medical care for up to two years post-donation to people who have given the gift of life through living organ donation. Donations are still being accepted.

Thanks to Marla and Lee Adams for your rockin’ efforts! Can we get a yeehaw, y’all?

Annual Concert “Rocks” for Living Donor Clinic

By Marla Blackwell

Editor’s Note: In 2008, Marla Blackwell donated a kidney to her mother.  During her first visit to UMMC, her social worker put her in touch with Lee Adams, who had donated a kidney the year before.  Adams is also the person who created the UMMC Living Donor Follow-Up Clinic Annual Benefit Concert.  Marla felt compelled to help Lee with the event and has been involved ever since. This year, Marla will assist in hosting the fourth annual Night with Nashville fundraising concert on September 8 in Falling Waters, WV.  Read Marla’s story below:

If I had been told earlier in my life, “Someday you will be donating a kidney,” I wouldn’t have believed it. Though, on June 18, 2008, I did that very thing.  At the age of 34, I donated a kidney to my mother.

But it wasn’t as easy as that.  For all the mothers, you may relate to my mother who made it very clear to all of us, three years before I donated to her, that she would not be taking a kidney from any of her children.

Those three years passed on by. My mother fought every day to stay alive, but her disease eventually took complete control of her body. It was early January of 2008 that I decided to do research on the single incision laparoscopic kidney removal to gather more information about the procedure.  My mother had mentioned she was in touch with the University of Maryland Transplant Center, so I started my research on their Web site and found a previously recorded surgical webcast of a living donor kidney transplant.  It was fascinating and I said to myself,” I can really do this.”

I did a little more homework on the procedure, the recovery and the long-term effects and didn’t feel any reservations about going through with it. It’s worth noting at this point that this story represents my personal experience and my feelings about donating a kidney. It is different for each living organ donor, such as Lee Adams, author of Donor Girl, who illustrates each moment of her experience as a living donor in her inspirational book.

My mother did eventually agree to proceed with the testing, and it turned out I was an excellent match for her. The overall experience with the UMMC Transplant Team was amazing from the moment I went for my initial testing until the day I was released from the hospital. It was during my very first visit to UMMC that I met my social worker, who offered to put me in touch with a woman who had donated a kidney one year ago and understood what I was going through.

That woman is Lee Adams, and every year she conducts the UMMC Living Donor Follow-Up Clinic Benefit.  The benefit raises funds for the UMMC Living Donor Follow-Up Clinic, created by Matthew Cooper, M.D.  Dr. Cooper and the UMMC Transplant Team implemented this program to provide living organ donors the quality medical follow-up care they may need after donating life.

I was compelled to help, and I reached out to Lee to see how I could be involved.  Since then, I have embraced this wonderful cause and it’s been quite a humbling experience to be able to give back and be part of this awesome benefit.  Throughout the past few years, the UMMC Living Donor Follow-Up Clinic has been able to provide follow-up support to many living donors through the generous contributions from others.

The clinic provides various services, including emotional support through the availability of counselors. This is an area of the clinic I am very passionate about and hope to see continue to grow and expand.  The donor makes the decision to donate life and embraces the experience, although the unexpected emotions from others around them, such as family members, may occur weeks or months after donation. To know the clinic is available for this type of support for donors is priceless.  As Lee Adams states, “I was ecstatic to hear that UMMC was opening a living organ donor clinic that would offer follow-up care at six months, one year and two years. The chance to meet with doctors, counselors and nurses who understood a donor’s needs and knew what to expect in our recovery made me feel much more comfortable that my future health was as important as the recipients. And for a donor who volunteers to put their health on the line, that is a very important reassurance.”

Since my donation three years ago, I married my best friend, Brian Blackwell, and we are expecting our first child in January.  The experience of donating has been life changing in every way and I will forever be an advocate for living organ donors.  I look forward to raising funds for the UMMC Living Donor Follow-up Clinic for many years to come.

The UMMC Living Donor Follow-Up Clinic is continuing to make monumental strides in making a difference in living donor’s lives.  I would like to thank the entire UMMC Transplant Team for all their unconditional support and for providing the ultimate follow-up care for living organ donors.

Note: The UMMC Living Donor Follow-Up Clinic was designed to provide basic needs for the donor and any donation-related complication after their surgery. It is required that all living donor programs provide follow-up appointments at six months, one year and two years post-donation. The goal of UMMC’s clinic is to ensure donors’ kidney health remains stable following the donation.  After the 2-year anniversary of their organ donation, the UMMC Living Donor Follow-Up Clinic remains available for donors that have ongoing needs related to their kidney health or need answers to simple questions regarding preventative medicine to ensure their best quality of life.