Friday, November 6, 2009

Potential organ donors should be sure to register

Monday, October 25, 2009 -Friday's front page Tri-City Herald story should have had a disclaimer on it that warned readers to keep a box of tissues nearby.

Herald reporter Annette Cary wrote a piece about one local girl that now will live because another died tragically.

Alex Hatley-Flores and Taylor Tefft, two middle school cousins from Richland, both died from injuries in a collision on Interstate 182.

Kayla Jackson, a Pasco teen in need of a double lung transplant, was likely one of nine organ recipients from these two young donors.

Kayla has been on the transplant list for eight months. Her lung capacity was down to 10 percent and had been told that without a transplant, she would only live a few more months.

It is an awful and wonderful, grief- and hope-filled story.

Our hearts go out to the parents of all of these girls.

There are some interesting statistics about organ donation. According to Donate Life Today:

* More than 100,000 men, women and children currently need life-saving organ transplants.

* Every 11 minutes another name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list.

* An average of 18 people die each day from the lack of available organs for transplant.

And here's a statistic that is easy to change. Although 90 percent of Americans say they support organ donation, only 30 percent know the essential steps to become a donor.

It's easy to register as a donor in Washington. If it's something you are interested in, you should indicate your wishes on your driver's license or state ID.

Out of courtesy to your loved ones, you should also let your loved ones know of your wishes.

Washington does not require family consent for donation, but filling out a family notification card will help avoid and confusion or delays. This form can be printed from www.donatelifetoday .com.

From this same site you can also register to become a donor, update (or remove) your profile or register your child as a donor.

What many would-be donors may not understand is that everyone can be a potential donor, regardless of age, race or medical history, and there is no cost to the donor's family.

They may also be concerned that if they sign up for organ donation, their own life becomes less valuable. Thankfully that's just not the case.

Even if you are a donor, when you are in an accident or become seriously ill, the first priority will always be to save your life.

Each life is precious. Timothy Woodall, Alex's stepfather captured this sentiment beautifully when he said, "(God) takes one under his wings and saves another."

Becoming an organ donor is a personal decision, but those who favor the idea should take the necessary steps to register. You never know when your chance to save a life will come.



Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dr. Egan Receives $1.47 Million Grant For Lung Transplant Research

Wednesday, October 14, 2009 — The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has awarded Thomas M. Egan, a professor of surgery at the University of North Carolina, a $1.47 million, two-year grant for research on perfusion and ventilation of lungs outside the body before transplant. The research could lead to a significant increase in the number of lungs available for transplant.

Thomas M. Egan, M.D., M.Sc.
Dr. Egan, a surgeon in the UNC Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, is internationally known for his research on lung transplantation, which has been under way since he came to UNC in 1989 to start its lung transplant program.

His new grant was awarded under the NHLBI's Translational Research Implementation Program, a two-stage program designed to translate fundamental research ideas into proof-of-concept efficacy testing in patients. This Stage 1 grant is supported by the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act's Grand Opportunities (GO) grants program, for large-scale research projects that the National Institutes of Health says have "a high likelihood of enabling growth and investment in biomedical research and development, public health, and health care delivery." NHLBI is part of the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Egan's project will perfect a technique to perfuse and ventilate human lungs outside the body (ex vivo) to determine if they are suitable for transplant, and will demonstrate safety of transplanting human lungs after ex-vivo perfusion in a pilot clinical study.

Lung disease is the fourth leading cause of death among Americans. Lung transplantation helps patients with end-stage lung diseases and improves survival, but transplants are critically limited by an inadequate supply of suitable lungs from conventional organ donors – people who have been declared brain-dead after a lethal brain injury and have been on ventilation before a controlled cardiac arrest when organs are retrieved for transplant. Lungs that have been offered for donation frequently cannot be used because lung function in the donor is poor, due to inflammation or infection or fluid build-up (edema) that occur after trauma and emergency treatment.

During transplant, the stopping and restarting of circulation to the lungs can cause ischemia-reperfusio n injury, which damages cells in the lung and leads to problems with lung function after transplant.

Only about 1,400 lung transplant procedures are performed each year in the United States; since 1995, 6,022 people have died while on the waiting list for lung transplants. This week, 1,867 people were on the national waiting list for lung transplants, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Dr. Egan has designed an ex-vivo perfusion and ventilation circuit in which lungs are placed for evaluation and possible treatment before transplant. Ex-vivo perfusion and ventilation allow for lung function assessment, and also for possible treatment of lungs to reduce ischemia-reperfusio n injury in transplant. Thus, the lungs treated this way could have less graft dysfunction or failure and the transplant recipient could have an improved chance of survival. This would revolutionize lung transplantation, and could have a major impact on other types of organ transplants.

Michael Knowles, M.D., of the UNC Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, a collaborator on Dr. Egan's project, called the research project "groundbreaking. "

"I have been involved in lung transplantation from its inception at UNC, and have seen, first-hand, the suffering and unnecessary death that results from the shortage of lung donors in the U.S.," Dr. Knowles said in a letter of support for the research.

The project has support of lung transplant physicians at several other universities as well as from Carolina Donor Services, the organ procurement organization serving most of North Carolina.

For the Stage 1 project, Dr. Egan's research team will use lungs from conventional organ donors that have been declined for transplant because of concerns about lung function, as well as lungs from DCD (donation after cardiac death) donors, patients who are not brain dead but whose next-of-kin have decided to withdraw life support because their condition is so poor. The lungs will be assessed in the ex-vivo perfusion and ventilation circuit.

In a Stage 2 study, Dr. Egan's project will also plan a large multi-center clinical trial to use the ex-vivo lung perfusion/ventilati on system to evaluate human lungs retrieved after death from non-heart-beating donors, patients who have died of sudden cardiac arrest outside the hospital or in the emergency room. Using animal models, Dr. Egan was the first scientist to show that lungs could be retrieved from non-heart-beating donors after death and safely transplanted. His research has shown that lungs are viable for substantial periods of time after circulation stops, because lung cells do not rely on perfusion (circulation of blood or other fluids) for cellular respiration.

Widespread use of lungs retrieved from non-heart-beating donors followed by ex-vivo assessment could provide much larger numbers of human lungs for transplant that may function better and last longer than lungs currently being transplanted from conventional brain-dead organ donors.

Investigators for his project, entitled "Ex-vivo perfusion and ventilation of lungs to assess transplant suitability, " are:

Thomas M. Egan, M.D., M.Sc., Professor, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, UNC Department of Surgery (Principal Investigator) , UNC School of Medicine
Peadar G. Noone, M.D., Associate Professor, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, UNC Department of Medicine, UNC School of Medicine
Paul Stewart, Ph.D., Research Associate Professor, Department of Biostatistics, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health
Eileen Burker, Ph.D., CRC, Associate Professor, Division of Rehabilitation Counseling and Psychology, Department of Allied Health Sciences, and Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, UNC School of Medicine
Benjamin E. Haithcock, M.D., Assistant Professor, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, UNC Department of Surgery, UNC School of Medicine
William K. Funkhouser, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Department of Pathology and Lab Medicine, UNC School of Medicine
Katherine Birchard, M.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Radiology, UNC School of Medicine
R. Duane Davis, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Department of Surgery, Duke University School of Medicine
For more information, contact Dr. Egan at (919) 966-3383.


Monday, November 2, 2009

One Living Reason to Donate Your Organs

By Eric Ernst

When she was 18 and undergoing a Navy physical, Bette Luksha-Gammell got the shock of her life.

"You'll never have children, and I'm surprised you're still walking," a doctor said. He later told her parents she probably wouldn't live past 20.

Unknown to her, Gammell had pulmonary hypertension, and her lungs and parts of her heart were three times normal size.

Following that news, a gradual decline left Gammell hooked to an oxygen tank for too much of her days.

Eighteen years ago, doctors transplanted two lungs into Gammell and sewed up a hole in her heart. In 2000, after her body rejected those organs, she received a single lung transplant. Then, about four years ago, she received a transplanted kidney after hers was damaged by the medicines she took for her lungs.

She now lives in North Port with her husband, Larry. On Sunday, she'll celebrate her 50th birthday.

Gammell may have lived a life of struggle and pain, but she doesn't ask, "Why me?"

"Never question God," she says. "You might not like the answer."

Instead of wallowing in self-pity, Gammell adjusted her goals and went to work for Disney cruise lines and as a baggage handler (no kidding) for Continental Airlines.

"I'm one of those people, I have to be doing something. I can't sit at home and collect a check every month," she says. "I'd love to be back at work, but I know the risk I take."

Gammell settles for teaching a wire jewelry class at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County.

She's also an advocate and ambassador for organ transplants. At Disney, she started a support group called Second Chance. She records her daily struggles at She writes letters with suggestions for Medicare reform.

And she has traveled across the country to talk with potential recipients filled with doubts, fears and conflicting emotions.

At 9 p.m. Sundays, she watches a new CBS television series, "Three Rivers," which follows the lives of organ donors, recipients and surgeons at a fictitious hospital in Pittsburgh.

Gammell calls the show the first national platform for organ donations.

"It certainly starts a conversation, " says Jennifer Krause, public affairs manager for LifeLink Foundation.

The foundation, which arranges organ donations from Tampa Bay through Fort Myers, reported 584 transplants in its coverage area last year. Another 437 donors provided tissue for such uses as bone grafts and heart valves.

Gammell sees donors as the real heroes. "I try to do something, each day, to honor donor families," she says. "At the most grief-filled time of their lives, they gave up someone they loved to give life to someone that someone else loves."

To recipients and donors, she offers, by her own example, a simple creed: "You have all these issues, but you have to stay positive. Being positive keeps you alive, whether you've had a transplant or you're healthy."

To become an organ donor, register online at

Eric Ernst's column runs Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Contact him at -or- (941) 486-3073.


About This Blog

Welcome to the Lungs for Life BREATHE blog. It is here that I hope to keep you informed, provide resources and just stay in touch with asthma, cystic fibrosis, organ donation and transplant communities.

Feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns you may have. Thank you.


The teal-green lung(s) graphic images were designed and generously donated to Lungs for Life by a young man, James Binegar, who lost his fight with cystic fibrosis while waiting transplant. We deeply appreciate James' work on our graphics and for donating his time to LFL. He will be missed but his memory will live on through our use of his graphics.

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