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Tue, Feb 6 11:12am · National Donor Day: Celebrating the Gift of Life

Today in the U.S. more than 114,000 people are in need of an organ transplant. Even though 2017 was the biggest year in history for organ transplants, we still fell short – by a lot – with 34,768 transplants performed last year. In order for more people to benefit from a lifesaving organ transplant, we need more donors.

Organ donation is the process of giving an organ or a part of an organ to another person who has been diagnosed with organ failure. Both deceased and living organ donation begins with a person who recognizes an opportunity to save someone’s life. February 14th is National Donor Day, an observance day originally designated in 1998 to raise awareness for organ, eye, tissue, marrow, platelet and blood donation. In the United States, people aren’t required to be donors. They give of themselves because they have a strong desire to help others. Let’s learn more about the process for both living and deceased organ donation.

LIVING ORGAN DONATION2018-01-29 National Donor Day Blog Post

Living donation is a wonderful act of generosity and courage. People can donate part of their liver or one of their kidneys while they’re still living. Living donation not only saves the life of the recipient, it can also relieve pressure on the waiting list for others. We can break down the living donation process into six steps:

Consider and Discuss. Take time to think about living donation, learn everything you can about the process, and discuss with a trusted advisor. Discussing with another person might give you an outside opinion you haven’t considered. Consider the possible outcomes and make sure you understand the time commitment to go through the process.

Provide your Information to the Transplant Center. Some centers will record your information in a telephone call; some have an online form; some might send you paperwork to complete. At Mayo Clinic, our online questionnaire will provide our nurses with all the information they need to determine if you’re a potential living donor candidate.

Talk with Experts. The transplant center staff can answer your questions about the process and help ease concerns. Nurses and social workers are some of the first people you’ll speak to about your desire to donate. They become part of your transplant team when you decide to proceed to evaluation.

Tests and Examinations. As a potential donor, you’ll have an evaluation similar to that of the recipient. Bloodwork, radiology, and consultations with doctors, surgeons, social workers, and nurses will be just some of the testing and consultations you’ll undergo as part of your donor evaluation.

Surgery to Save a Life. Your surgery for kidney donation is typically a minimally invasive surgery that leaves you with small incisions and a relatively quick recovery. For liver donation, a portion of your liver is removed and given to the recipient. The liver regenerates to normal size within a few months after surgery.

Recovery. Most people are in the hospital from 2 to 7 days depending upon the organ they donated. You can expect to return to normal activities in 6-8 weeks after surgery. You’ll visit the clinic a few times after surgery and a few times after you have been sent home to be sure you’re recovering well.

DECEASED ORGAN DONATION

Signing up for deceased donation takes very little time and requires no preliminary physicals or doctor visits. There is no age limit for deceased donations. The planning on your part is simple and quick compared to living donation, and there are just a few steps for you to follow.

Discuss with Family. Your decision to donate is a personal one, but including your family is an important step. Letting your family know your wishes gives them peace of mind and eases their burden when you pass away.

Sign Up. You can sign up to be an organ donor in a couple of ways. First, when you get a new driver’s license or renew your license, you can sign up in most states through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Just check the box. It’s simple and could save a life. You can also sign up through Donate Life in your state. You can search Donate Life America for your state registry and fill out a simple form online to register, or you can simply go to Register Me to fill out the information quickly online. At the time of your death, doctors will determine if you’re able to be a donor and which organs you’re able to donate. You don’t need to re-enroll in the list or remove yourself from the list when you reach a certain age. You might be able to save a life no matter your circumstances.

Everyone has their own reason for signing up to save someone’s life. Maybe you know someone in need of transplant, maybe you’ve lost someone to organ failure or maybe you’re just a giving soul – no matter your reason, you’re contributing one of the greatest gifts someone can receive. Recipients of organs, tissue, blood and bone marrow often say they can never properly thank their donors for the gift of life. Some say the best way they can repay their donor is to live life to the fullest and take great care of the gift they were given. For donor families, often the opportunity to meet their loved one’s recipient and watch them live a full and happy life is the thanks they need to heal and move on in their time of grief.

Mayo Clinic shows gratitude to donors by making safety and quality of care for transplant recipients and donors our highest priority, and by being the best stewards of the gift that was given.

On this National Donor Day, please join us in thanking the thousands of donors, both deceased and living, who out of generosity and courage, have given the ultimate gift.

If you’re signed up to be a deceased organ donor or you have been a living organ donor, what can you say to teach others about donation?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tue, Jan 23 9:23am · Meet These Incredible Transplant Patients

Everybody has a story. No matter your age, what you’ve been through, or where you are today, you have a story. And it’s remarkable!

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This is especially true of people who have overcome a health crisis. Consider transplant patients. There’s a story and life before transplant, as well as after. A story about “getting the call.” There’s a story to be told around recovering from surgery, and how patients are using their gift of a second chance at life. Remarkable, right?

Today we introduce you to three incredible transplant patients, and encourage you to read and be inspired by their remarkable stories.

Meet Jennifer. A diagnosis of IgA nephropathy at age 21 left Jennifer’s kidneys functioning at only 7 percent. She was receiving dialysis for 10 hours at night and two more sessions during the day, leaving Jennifer with little time for friends or a full-time job. Due to the severity of her condition, Jennifer was added to the waiting list for a kidney transplant, and listed with two medical centers; one in Miami and one in Houston. She waited for 12 years in Miami and nine years in Houston. Then, one day, someone at Jennifer’s dialysis center approached her and suggested she contact Mayo Clinic’s Arizona campus. She did, and that’s when everything started to change. Here’s Jennifer’s full story.

Jennifer

Meet Kent. Kent’s symptoms began in January 2016. He was weak, his legs were swollen, and his blood pressure was low. By September that year, he was in liver failure and in need of a new liver, but his MELD score was not high enough to put him on top of the waiting list. As his wait for a liver transplant continued, his health got worse and Kent went into kidney failure. Then, on April 22, 2017, he got “the call.” Here’s Kent’s full story.

Kent

Meet Maksim. It was New Year’s Eve, and parents Jerimiah and Rachael were in a pediatric intensive care unit with their 4-year-old son, Maksim, who had been hospitalized for severe lethargy and dehydration caused by an E. coli infection. Even though Maksim was discharged from the hospital after a three month stay, the infection had caused kidney failure, and Maksim would need a transplant. The events leading up to his transplant were a whirlwind. Here’s Maksim’s full story.

Maksim

What’s your story?

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Tue, Jan 9 8:05am · Meet the Expert: Bev Hansen, M.S.W., L.M.S.W.

When asked about how she made her career choice, Bev Hansen has a clever response.

“I’m a social worker ‘cause I work at being social,” she says.

Though Bev, oncology/transplant social work manager at Mayo Clinic’s campus in Arizona, really does enjoy socializing and throwing parties and celebrations, her true motivations for pursuing social work run much deeper and are rooted in her faith.

Bev Hansen

“It was kind of a faith-based thing,” she says. “I wanted to be able to help people who have a difficult time helping themselves: the poor, the underserved,” she says. “In any way I could, I wanted to help others, in any plight they were going through.”

Prior to her social work position at Mayo Clinic, Bev worked with kids just getting involved with gangs in Chicago; as an intake social worker for Child Protective Services; as a pediatric counselor for the pediatric psychiatry unit at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and then stayed at home full-time with her children for 10 years. She returned to work in an interim role in transplant social work at Mayo Clinic’s campus in Arizona. She fit so well with the team there that she was hired to stay on in transplant social work after her three-month stint.

“Other prior jobs were great, but transplant is definitely my love,” says Bev. “With transplant, there is always a hope.”

Sharon Wickner, the only other transplant social worker when Bev started at the Arizona campus, became one of Bev’s key mentors, particularly for assimilating into the Mayo Clinic culture. Sharon radiated joy to be able to work at Mayo Clinic and love for her patients; Bev found both of these qualities infectious.

Today Bev manages a team of more than 30 inpatient and outpatient social workers, 15 of whom focus on transplantation. “I still find myself heavily involved in transplant, “she says.

As a manager, most of her day is spent in meetings and responding to emails. What she really enjoys the most is time spent with her staff, helping them excel in their roles.

Another facet of her Mayo Clinic work she appreciates is the professional atmosphere. “If you’re hired at Mayo Clinic, you’re excellent at what you do,” she says. “People are very dedicated — you see it all the time.”

Bev also enjoys the new beginning a transplant offers patients. “It’s so much fun to see patients so sick get a new lease on life,” she says.

Within the transplant arena, Bev’s favorite part is donation, indicating her heart is with the donors. In fact, her passion for donation and desire to help others even propelled her to donate her own kidney to her cousin when he reached kidney failure and siblings were unable to donate. Due to an opportunity to participate in a research study on half-matched donation, or donation where only half of the donor and recipient’s human leukocyte antigen (HLA) matches, the transplant took place in California in 2012.

Even though recovery spanned weeks, Bev feels grateful for the experience. “Being a donor was more of a privilege — it was truly amazing,” she says. “Of course, I’d thought about this and asked myself ‘Would I do this?’

“I thought that if someone I knew needed a donor, I would.”

As a tribute to Bev, when her cousin and his wife later gave birth to twins, the little girl was given the middle name “Beverly.”

Today, Bev says she cannot tell she has only one kidney, and she can downhill ski and keep up with her college-aged boys. The donation experience broadened her appreciation for both transplant patients and their caregivers.

“It’s interesting being on the patient end,” Bev says. “Just a small taste of it made me empathize more with all they go through. It gave me more compassion for our patients and gave me a heart for nurses and all that they do. Definitely, without a doubt, I’d do it again.”

When she’s not at work, Bev enjoys sitting in the backyard with her husband enjoying a glass of wine, going out to coffee with friends and traveling. She also enjoys a good joke, though sometimes she finds herself appreciating it solo.

“My boys give me such a hard time ‘cause of my sense of humor,” she says. “I crack a joke, and I’m the only person laughing. I crack myself up all the time.”

Wouldn’t you like to have coffee with Bev?

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Dec 19, 2017 · Meet Tom: Halfway Around the World and in Need of a New Liver

In May 2017, 25-year-old Tom laid in a hospital bed in Osaka, Japan, his health declining fast due to liver failure caused by alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. The next month, he was home in Florida and receiving a life-saving liver transplant.

If you’re finding that your hope needs to be restored this holiday season, we encourage you to read Tom’s story. Tom’s journey reminds us that hope and healing is possible, even when you’re halfway around the world.

Read Tom’s full story.

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Generosity is often abundant during the holidays. This season, educate those around you about becoming an organ donor.

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Dec 13, 2017 · Innovative Approach Offering Pathway to Liver Transplant for Patients Struggling to Lose Weight

Approximately 19 million Americans have severe obesity, which is defined as a body mass index (BMI) over 40. Excess body fat can lead to cirrhosis and eventual liver failure, similar to the effects of long-term heavy drinking. This condition is called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Some patients with cirrhosis and liver failure will need a lifesaving liver transplant. The incidence of NASH is increasing, and today, it’s the second most common reason for liver transplant.

Many transplant centers, including Mayo Clinic, require weight loss to a set BMI before a liver transplant. In highly selected cases where weight loss is not working, Mayo Clinic surgeons are offering a simultaneous liver transplant and weight loss surgery using sleeve gastrectomy. Here are three things to know about this innovative option.

  1. Serves patient population with limited options. Mayo Clinic came up with the idea to combine a liver transplant and gastric sleeve into one operation because of a growing need for treatment options among this patient population. Obesity-related liver disease is the most common liver disease in the United States today. Unfortunately, these patients are often left with few options for treating their liver failure and obesity. The simultaneous liver transplant and gastric sleeve is dramatically changing the future for these patients as both problems can be addressed at the same time.
  2. Gastric sleeve is not the same as gastric bypass. A gastric sleeve works by restricting the amount of food a person can eat. Gastric bypass both restricts the amount of food a person can eat and creates malabsorption of food and medications, which would be problematic post-transplant due to the need for immunosuppressant medications. With gastric sleeve, the patient becomes full quickly when eating, which can help change dietary habits. Following transplant, weight loss can occur at a healthy pace. Over time, sustained weight loss helps maintain the well-being of the new liver and reduces other problems associated with excess weight, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
  3. Similar recovery. Recovering from the simultaneous liver transplant and gastric sleeve is not much different than recovering from a liver transplant alone. By combining the procedures, patients are able to avoid two separate hospital stays and two separate recoveries.

Scott received a combination liver transplant and sleeve gastrectomy at Mayo Clinic. This is his story.

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Dec 5, 2017 · Staying Positive While Waiting for a Transplant

Rosemary was diagnosed with liver disease in 2001. Eight years later, her illness progressed to cirrhosis and end-stage liver failure, also triggering kidney failure. Following transfer from her home state, she underwent a liver and kidney transplant at Mayo Clinic’s campus in Rochester, Minnesota, in 2009.

We asked Rosemary to share her experience staying positive while waiting for her transplant. Here’s our interview with her.

Q: What were your sources of support and inspiration while waiting for your transplant?

I found the support that I needed in my faith, my husband, and my family and friends.

My faith provided me with a solid spiritual foundation. I prayed. I talked with my pastor for guidance. One day he presented me with a prayer shawl with each stitch representing a prayer that was offered for me. When I wrapped in it, I felt like I was being wrapped in prayers. It offered me comfort and hope, especially when I was too weak to pray myself.

Here I am just one year after my transplant. sitting with the Mayo Brothers on the steps outside the Gonda Building.

My husband was my caregiver. He was with me every step of the way. We cried, we prayed, we hugged, we talked, we sat in silence, we listened and we grew in faith. As my health failed, time moved slowly for us. At night we went to bed disappointed because I had not received “the call,” but we remained hopeful that maybe it might happen the next day.

I reached out to others: family and friends. I asked for prayers, and they responded by adding my name to prayer networks at their churches. They sent cards and messages of prayer and support. They visited. Our church congregations provided meals and sent money to help us with added expenses.

For me, staying positive meant that I had to accept the ever-changing events in my life, one long day at a time.

Q: Did you document your wait in any way?

I began keeping a journal. It doesn’t contain any inspiring revelations or deep thoughts. It does give a firsthand account of my attempts to stay positive during my waiting period.

Here are some entries from my journal:

  • I need to self-talk — to repeat things in my mind, over and over. What I am going to do?
  • I have a desire to crochet or work a jigsaw puzzle to occupy my hands. I need a diversion during this waiting.
  • The transplant recipients are such an inspiration, as I see how well they recover and how quickly they recover. I find myself reaching out to others, and we share conversations.
  • No scheduled appointments today. Slept late. Plan to make this a relaxing day. Enjoyed a piece of cinnamon loaf sent from home.
  • Normal/comfort foods are just that — comforting and satisfying. Amazing!
  • Walked up 4 steps! Briefly felt normal. Recognize the teeny steps forward — one step at a time. Got onto the transport shuttle without help!
  • I have five layers of wrapping on each leg due to edema. And I can barely move, due to ascites. I don’t know with whom to identify: a mummy or Lazarus? I prefer Lazarus! I had a laugh about that.
  • I am so exhausted that I can’t even look ahead as far as tomorrow. I just want to sleep. I wish I could get some sleep.
  • I talked on the phone today. After updating what is going on with me, we had a normal conversation — everyday chat. That was a blessing.

Q: How did you keep your support system updated on your condition as you anticipated a transplant?

When serious complications developed and I was transferred to Mayo Clinic’s campus in Rochester, Minnesota, my husband began a group email to our family and friends at home. The responses came immediately during the critical times. He read them to me. Later, I wrote in my journal, “They have been our strength and backbone during all of this. So many personal prayers and words of encouragement are special.”

Q: What would be one piece of advice you’d have for patients who are currently waiting for a transplant?

For me, staying positive meant that I had to accept the ever-changing events in my life, one long day at a time.

About Rosemary: Rosemary lives in central Kentucky and serves as a volunteer mentor at Mayo Clinic Connect. Her favorite pastimes are knitting and crocheting, and she especially enjoys the challenge of creating sweaters. She has also started a prayer shawl ministry at her church. Rosemary also loves solving Sudoku puzzles, playing the violin at church and taking an annual hiking vacation with her husband.

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Nov 28, 2017 · Meet the Expert: C. Burcin Taner, M.D.

When C. Burcin Taner, M.D., wants to wind down, you will often find him in the kitchen.

Dr. Taner, a transplant surgeon at Mayo Clinic’s campus in Florida, loves performing his own rendition of the Food Network’s reality TV show “Chopped”: opening the fridge, seeing what is available, then trying to create a meal out of the limited ingredients on hand.

2017-10-30 Dr. Taner Meet the Expert

“I love to cook—it’s a relaxation method for me, like active yoga,” Dr. Taner says.

Dr. Taner is not only an innovator in the kitchen, but also in transplantation research. He and colleagues were seeing that outcomes for patients transplanted with livers from donation after cardiac death (DCD) were not as good as outcomes for donation after brain death (DBD), and they gathered data to figure out why this was the case. They pinpointed the problem and made adjustments such that outcomes for livers procured from the two sources became equivalent.

These findings and their resulting medical journal publications were practice-changing, allowing the 10-20 percent of organs donated currently arising from DCD to be used for patients needing organs. Dr. Taner is considered one of the world experts in DCD, a transplant type not yet practiced at all transplant centers.

Dr. Taner is also a pacesetter in healthcare delivery enhancement, researching methods to improve efficiency and speed of delivering care to transplant patients. For example, Dr. Taner and his colleague Andrew Keaveny, M.D., have researched how to get hospitalized transplant patients back home as soon as possible by identifying patients ready to leave the hospital earlier than previously used protocol. The goal of this project is to tailor care to the individual patient’s medical condition.

In his role as surgeon, Dr. Taner followed in the footsteps of his father, a general surgeon.

“I grew up seeing my father go do surgery in the middle of the night,” he says. “In high school, I thought, ‘Just because my father’s in medicine, why should I become a doctor?’”

He realized toward the end of secondary school, however, that he really liked helping people and that medicine was the career path he wanted to pursue.

“Maybe it’s genetics,” he quips.

Dr. Taner attended medical school in Turkey, the country where he spent his childhood, followed by a surgical residency at Mayo Clinic’s campus in Rochester, Minnesota. During this residency, he was exposed to some of the problems patients face with organ failure and how it affects them, motivating him to pursue a career in transplantation to contribute solutions. He then completed a transplant surgery fellowship at Mayo, including a two-month rotation at Mayo Clinic’s campus in Jacksonville, Florida.

Throughout Dr. Taner’s transplant fellowship, Charles Rosen, M.D., transplant surgeon and director of the Mayo Clinic Transplant Center in Minnesota, served as a key mentor to him.

“Chuck really supported me, showed me the right way to operate and take care of patients,” he says.

Following his fellowship and what Dr. Taner says amounted to “almost a two-month job interview” during his Florida stint, he applied for an abdominal transplant surgical position open there and got the job. Since that time, he’s seen the liver transplant program he’s part of at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus become one of the largest in the U.S.

Dr. Taner performs about 75 percent of his surgical cases in the middle of the night, as organ procurement is usually scheduled after other cases are completed. To keep the surgical team going, he employs some unique tactics.

“When you’re a transplant surgeon and operating at odd hours of the day and night, you need to keep everybody on the team sharp,” he says, indicating he is known to play 80s pop music in the OR and ask up to 30-40 trivia questions on music from this era.

Dr. Taner also serves as chair of the Department of Transplantation at Mayo Clinic’s campus in Florida. In this role he oversees 150 employees, including clinical and research activities for 30 physicians.

Dr. Taner calls being a department chair “a 24/7 job,” which can be filled with the unexpected.

In addition to his roles as department chair and transplant surgeon, Dr. Taner is a member of the Executive Operations Team at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus, overseeing day-to-day site functions and future projects. He views this role as one where he puts aside his transplant surgeon “hat” and thinks about what’s good for the Florida campus as a whole.

Dr. Taner loves Mayo Clinic due to the teamwork and an environment where the patient comes first and everything else follows, a philosophy in which he strongly believes.

Looking to the future of transplant medicine, Dr. Taner is excited.

“I think there’s great future for transplant in terms of it mixing with regenerative medicine,” he says. “That is really to catch patients before they have organ failure. That should really be the goal of transplant: even though we love to transplant organs, prevention of organ failure should be the goal, actually. That’s the most exciting part about transplant: the dealing with problems at the cellular level, not at the organ level, and understanding what happens at the cellular level and interfering with appropriate medications or techniques to reverse the process.”

Have you gotten to know Dr. Taner?

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Nov 21, 2017 · Meet Remy: In Need of a Second Transplant, Remy Marceau Fights On

There are nearly 100,000 people in the United States waiting for a kidney transplant. Remy Marceau is one of them, with a wait he’s had to endure twice as his body now rejects the kidney it received four years ago from a living donor. The rejection stunned family, friends and Remy’s donor.

Learn how Remy is remaining focused on the future, using positivity and humor to carry on.

Read Remy’s full story.

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Generosity is often abundant during the holidays. This season, educate those around you about becoming an organ donor.

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