When the world's first successful organ transplant was performed in 1954, many called it a miracle. There was new hope for thousands whose futures were limited by disease and injury.
Just ask Laura Cochran of Columbus, John Cooke of Atlanta or Libby Davis of Milledgeville.
"The staff at the Emory transplant center are indeed miracle workers," says Mrs. Cochran, who suffered from Type I diabetes for more than 17 years until she received a successful islet cell transplant in May 2004. Since the transplant, she went from being dependant on an insulin pump to becoming insulin free.
Mrs. Davis of Milledgeville agrees. Having her life back has been "one big adventure" since her successful double lung transplant in 1999. Born with a heart defect, she developed secondary pulmonary disease that greatly limited her activities and eventually caused her to be oxygen dependent. She could barely walk from her living room to the bathroom, and she knew her time was limited without the transplant.
Emory's first transplant miracle dates back to 1966, when an ambitious group of Emory surgeons performed the state's first organ transplant.
Garland Perdue, MD, retired Medical Director of Emory University Hospital and CEO of the Emory Clinic, led the team that performed the kidney transplant, and was instrumental in bringing transplantation to Emory and Georgia. "We knew organ transplant was an answer that could save thousands of lives," Dr. Perdue recalls.
Mr. Cooke is one of the many who found an answer in organ transplant. Mr. Cooke's case was more complicated than usual. But his transplant surgeon, David Vega, MD, never gave up hope and came up with a treatment option that greatly increased his chances of receiving a donor match.
Emory has achieved a remarkable number of transplant "firsts"-- including Georgia's first kidney transplant (1966), heart transplant (1985), liver transplant (1987), kidney-pancreas transplant (1989), and lung transplant (1993). Most recently, Emory performed the first islet transplant in Georgia (2003). Emory has the only lung and islet transplant programs in the state, and the Clinical Islet Lab is one of only a handful of such centers in the world.
Each year, Emory surgeons perform between 150-175 kidney transplants on adults and children; between 25 to 30 adult heart transplants, approximately 100 adult and pediatric liver transplants (Emory recently transplanted its 1,000th liver), and more than 10 lung transplants. With the addition of a third lung transplant specialist, those numbers are drastically increasing, and the 100th lung (are you counting the number of lungs or the number of transplant procedures) was transplanted in 2003. To date, seven islet cell transplants have been successfully performed.
Islet cell transplant is just one example of what the future holds for transplant. Transplant specialists at Emory University Hospital are already looking ahead to the next 100 years. The Transplant Center is committed to providing and improving access to quality clinical care and support services for patients with organ failure, and to developing new transplant therapies to prevent or delay organ failure through basic, translational, and clinical research.
"Our continuous stream of remarkable research accomplishments has been made possible by the extensive research funding garnered by our investigators for bench science, clinical trials, and social and public health studies," says Christian P. Larsen, MD, D Phil, Carlos and Marguerite Mason Professor of Surgery in Transplantation Biology, Department of Surgery, Emory University School of Medicine, Director, The Emory Transplant Center, and Co-Director, Kidney/Pancreas Transplant Program.
Robert J. Bachman, chief operating officer, Emory University Hospital, says the transplant center is one of the hospital's more important legacies.