Thursday, January 3, 2013

Milestone of 1,000th liver transplant surpassed at KU Hospital

For the first time in the State of Kansas or the Kansas City metropolitan area, a hospital has passed the milestone of 1,000 liver transplants.

The 1000th procedure was performed at The University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City by surgeons Timothy Schmitt and Jameson Forster.  Forster was also the surgeon in the hospital’s first transplant in 1990.

The 1000th recipient was 60-year-old Brenda Higgins, of Kansas City, followed closely by 39 year old Deborah Ellerbusch, Ph.D., a psychologist who works in Newton, Kansas.

Ellerbusch’s mother, who lives in Los Angeles, found The University of Kansas Hospital through a friend who researched and was impressed with the hospital’s short waiting times and strong outcomes.

“I’m overwhelmed and overjoyed at having a second chance at living a healthier life.  I’m grateful to my donor and to The University of Kansas Hospital medical team that is helping me recover.  I can’t tell you how much better I feel … even though it’s been just days with my new liver,” said Dr. Ellerbusch.

The hospital’s liver transplant program is now among the top 25 programs by volume nationally. Patient outcomes, as measured by one year survival, have remained greater than the national average over the same period, even with the 250 percent growth in the program over the last five years.

Growth has come from waiting times, which are significantly lower than other centers, with the University of Kansas Hospital’s current wait time of 3.9 months, versus 7 months regionally and 11.1 months nationally.

The liver transplant program began at The University of Kansas Hospital in 1990.  The program’s first liver transplant patient, Kristine Brees, was so impressed with the care she received she became a nurse at The University of Kansas Hospital.  She has been a resource for liver transplant patients.

“It has been exciting to watch the program grow, especially in its rapid growth of the past couple of years,” said Brees, RN.  “I am thankful every day I get up and live a full life.  I especially enjoy working with those who were a part of my transplant team almost 23 years ago.”

The program has also attracted patients from as far away as California and New York.  Recently, one liver transplant patient’s wife released a book chronicling their journey from New York City to Kansas City to find a quality hospital with faster wait times to complete the lifesaving procedure.

The book -- "Still Livin': The True Story of How One Couple Defied All Odds and Found the Gift of Life" – was written by Barbara Zitwer, with her husband, Gil Alicea, who decided to donate half the proceeds from sales of the book to the hospital’s transplant program.

Timothy Schmitt, MD, director of the hospital’s transplant program gives much credit for the growth to the Midwest Transplant Network and the giving nature of people in the Midwest.

“MTN has educated the public in terms of organ donation and has worked with donor families with grace and understanding.  The people of the Midwest seem to understand that the loss of a loved one can also mean a new life for many people on organ waiting lists,” said Dr. Schmitt.

Schmitt says the hospital’s organ transplant program has a dedicated team of surgeons, internal medicine organ specialists, anesthesiologists, nursing staff and others to ensure excellent outcomes.

“The University of Kansas Hospital Center for transplantation has built an experienced team that can handle anything.  We put the patient's needs first and organize our whole approach from evaluation, to operation, to follow up, with activities aligned to provide both the highest level of efficiency and through this maximize the outcomes for our patients,” noted Dr. Schmitt.

The University of Kansas Hospital is a leader in solid organ transplantation and is one of the Midwest region’s most successful liver, kidney, and pancreas transplant programs.

In addition to the 1,000th liver transplant since the program began in 1990, the hospital's first kidney transplant was performed in 1969 and since the center has performed over 1900 kidney transplants and nearly 150 pancreas transplants.

The hospital recently announced plans to establish a heart transplant program in an effort to offer the continuum of care to all heart patients and in a move to its mission for establishing a comprehensive center in solid organ transplantation of all major organ groups.