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Liver Transplant Update | Penn Medicine

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Save the Date for the DASH for Organ and Tissue Donation: Sunday, April 17, 2016

Did you know that there are approximately 5,800 people in the greater Philadelphia region are on the national transplant waiting list? Here at Penn, there are 1,301 people awaiting a life-saving transplant.

If transplant or organ donation has touched your life, join Team Penn Medicine as we walk and run to support the DASH for Organ and Tissue Donation – the annual, community education fundraising event sponsored by the Gift of Life Donor Program. This year, the event will take place on Sunday, April 17, 2016.

Held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the DASH consists of a 3k walk, a 5k run and a 10k run. Participants include donor families who join us in memory of loved ones. The event also attracts transplant recipients who participate in honor of their organ donors. Those waiting for organs to become available will run and walk along side of transplant professionals, as well as friends, families and hundreds of people from the community. It’s a unique event, and Team Penn Medicine is a great way to participate.

Click here to join Team Penn Medicine today! Stay tuned for updates on this year’s Penn T-shirt for the DASH, the schedule for the day and lots of other DASH details.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Laurie’s Story: Celebrating 10 Years

Laurie Schulte has undergone two liver transplants at the Penn Transplant Institute. In honor of the 10-year anniversary of her first life-saving transplant, she reflects back on the great moments and challenges she’s faced since and looks to the future.

It is the time of year that many people are writing their year in review and/or making their New Years’ resolutions. I, however, am not only looking back on 2015, but rather the entire past decade. 10 years ago on January 7, 2006 I received a life-saving liver transplant.

As a result of Wilson’s Disease, at the age of 24, I went into acute liver failure and was status 1A on the transplant list. My body was shutting down, other organs included, and there were no liver matches available. I could have (would have) died.

I am here today and able to share my story for two reasons (besides God): One, because of a family’s selfless decision to donate life and, two, because the Penn transplant team believed in me.

Being at the top of the transplant list means two things. It means that you are next in line for a transplant. It also means you are the next most likely person to die. I was a mere couple of days (if that) away from death. Instead of losing me, the Penn transplant team – my medical dream team – decided to give me a mismatched blood type liver. It was my only option and fortunately, it worked.

So what did I do with the past 10 years my donors and surgeons gifted me? I think the better question is “What didn’t I do?” I married the love of my life, bought two homes, got my first-ever dog, had a daughter and a son, progressed in my career, volunteered as a speaker on organ donation, traveled both inside and outside the country, and even met the family of my donor – just to name some of the major events.

In my opinion, though, the less major events were just as important. I witnessed my daughter’s first dance recital and soccer games and beamed (cried) with pride at her accomplishments. I was the matron of honor in my sister’s wedding. I rocked my son well beyond the time it took him to fall asleep. I held my husband’s hand. I talked to God on my way into work and found my way back to church on Sundays. I stopped to breathe and think and pray and love and appreciate.

Being a transplant patient hasn’t come without its challenges. In the past decade, I survived extensive physical and occupational therapy, a major bile duct reconstruction surgery, countless minor procedures including ERCPs, biliary drain placement, and frequent drain changes. These all lead to a second transplant six and a half years after my first (this time from a selfless donor who matched my blood type!), as well as hundreds of doctors’ visits, and routine and not-so-routine blood draws. I feared death and still struggle with that fear sometimes.

Clearly having a transplant has shaped my life and put me on the path that I am on now. And sometime through this journey I realized that all of this – taking the good times with the bad - is not just life as a transplant patient. It is life for everyone. While I may stand out among my family and friends as someone who has been through a lot, there are plenty of others who have as well.

I was given the rare and precious gift of a second (and third) chance at life. In honor of my donors, transplant team, and family and friends who have supported me along the way, I have chosen to put aside my challenges and celebrate all my blessings, not just as a New Year’s resolution but each and every day that I have been gifted. Because with every obstacle there is a miracle. So instead of looking forward to just 2016, I look instead to 2026, 2036, 2046, and however many more years I have to appreciate this gift. To be perfectly honest, it scares me as much as it excites me, but that’s life I guess.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Making a House a Home: The Clyde F. Barker Penn Transplant House Wish List

Many people who come to Penn Medicine for a transplant live far from Philadelphia. When the call comes for a transplant, the Clyde F. Barker Penn Transplant House provides a convenient and comfortable place for transplant patients and their families to stay.

The Transplant House was designed and built entirely through the generosity of private donations, and it is currently in great need of some additional support. We would be extremely grateful if you could help by:

1. Donating cash or checks

We'll use the money to purchase replacement bedding and kitchen equipment.

2. Donating any of the following items:

  • Bathroom scales
  • Luggage cart
  • Magazine and newspaper subscriptions 
  • Playstation 3 and games
  • Stereo system for the fitness center
  • Aluminum foil
  • Saran wrap
  • Plastic food storage containers for leftovers
  • Zip-lock bags (variety of sizes)
  • Dry food goods, including canned soups, dry cereal, canned vegetables and condiments

3. Volunteering as a guest chef

Guest chefs prepare and share a meal with our out-of-town guests. It can really help ease the stress associated with meal planning and preparation.

Donations and checks should be delivered to: 
Penn Transplant House
3940 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Your gift will assist us in offering hospitality and care to our guests during their stay with us.

Thank you so much in advance and happy holidays!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Save the Date: Annual Patient Holiday Party

We hope your schedules will allow you to join us at our annual holiday party for an evening of fun, food and celebration.

Anyone connected to Penn through a heart, kidney, liver, lung, pancreas or living donor transplant is invited. It's a great opportunity to spend time with friends you’ve made along your transplant journey, make new ones and see your favorite Transplant staff members.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

5:00-7:30 pm

Smilow Center for Translational Research Commons
3400 Civic Center Boulevard
Philadelphia, PA

Complimentary food and refreshments will be served.

Parking Information

Valet parking is not available for the session; however, self-pay and self-park are available at two locations:

Perelman Center Parking Garage

Location: 3400 Civic Center Boulevard
Rate: $7 for up to three hours

Civic Center Boulevard Parking Garage

Location: 3600 Civic Center Boulevard Center Boulevard 
Rate: $5 flat rate

Spreading Holiday Cheer

Being far from home when you need medical care is never easy -- and if it happens over the holidays, it can be even more challenging. If you’d like to help us offer additional hospitality to the guests at the Clyde F. Barker Transplant House, donations will be accepted at the holiday party. Just look for the Penn Transplant House table and add your gift to the collection. Checks can be made payable to the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania. Please put "Transplant House" on the memo line.


Space is limited. To attend the holiday party, kindly RSVP by Tuesday, November 24 by calling 1-800-789-PENN (7366).

We can't wait to see everyone!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Join Us in Memory of Father Louis Ogden

Father Louis Ogden
Photo courtesy of Diocese of Harrisburg 
On Tuesday, November 10 at 7:30 pm, you’re invited to join two Central Pennsylvania communities who will come together to celebrate and honor the life of Father Louis Ogden, as well as share important information about organ and tissue donation.

Father Ogden, who dedicated his life to community, faith and service, was one of the 700 people in the Philadelphia region waiting last year for a liver to become available. Despite a record-breaking number of organ donations this year, Father Ogden passed away while on the liver transplant waiting list.

A dedicated and generous friend and adviser, Father Ogden is fondly remembered by the congregation at Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Mechanicsburg, where he also gave his time to several Diocesan committees, serving as Vice-Chair of the Board of Education at Bishop McDevitt High School.

We're partnering with the Gift of Life Program to provide organ and tissue donation education and information in Father Ogden’s memory. Our living donor coordinator, Linda Wood, RN, BSN, will discuss living donation. Transplant recipients and donor families will also share their stories and discuss the impact organ donation has had on their lives.

Complimentary refreshments will be served. We look forward to seeing you there.

Date: Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Time: 7:30-9:00 pm

Location: St. Joseph Catholic Church, Parish Life and Education Center
400 E. Simpson Street
Mechanicsburg, PA 17055

RSVP: November 5, 2015: 717-766-9433 or

Friday, October 23, 2015

Jeff's Story: How My Friend Saved My Life

“He was my little brother’s little friend  until he became my living liver donor. Now he’s one of my brothers.” – Jeff Doerr, living donor liver recipient

At 28 years old, Jeffrey Doerr was a pretty normal guy with a happy life. He had a good job, a loving family and a girlfriend who would eventually become his wife. Then one day at work he got the call from his doctor that changed everything.

“Jeff, you need a liver transplant.”

Jeff was born with biliary atresia, a rare disease of the bile ducts that damages the liver. The liver produces bile, which helps digest fat and carries waste to the intestines. When a person has biliary atresia, the bile is blocked from going to the gallbladder and becomes trapped inside the liver. When that happens, the liver gets damaged and scarred, which eventually leads to liver failure.

Jeff always knew he had a “bad” liver, but it gave him relatively few problems or complications. He felt a little sick one day and underwent routine blood tests. It was after a few of the blood tests and doctor visits that he received the call.

Pursuing a Live Liver Donation

When Jeff found out he would need a liver transplant, he came to Penn Medicine to learn his options and how the transplant process worked. His hepatologist, K. Rajender Reddy, MD, explained that he could either wait for a deceased liver to become available or find a living liver donor.

“Initially, I was very skeptical about live liver,” Jeff explains. “Dr. Reddy said that there are a lot of good points to it. The main being that you know essentially exactly where your liver is coming from. You know the kind of person it's coming from and you know the quality beforehand. Also, with a live liver donation, you have a surgery date. You know when it's going to happen, and it's helpful to plan when you're going through such a stressful time.”

Jeff also learned that with living donation, the donor is typically healthier. The disease hasn’t progressed while waiting for a deceased donation and, therefore, the recovery can be easier for the recipient too.

“Dr. Reddy walked me through the process,” Jeff continues. “I would be responsible for finding my own donor, which was interesting because I'm a recruiter by trade. So I could utilize those skills I’ve been using [chuckles] to place people in career positions to find a liver donor.”

When Jeff explained the living liver donor process to his family, his brother, Mark, volunteered. Mark was five years younger than Jeff and had the same blood type. He was also in really good physical shape; he had rowed crew in high school and stayed active college. It seemed like the perfect match.

The two began the evaluation process including a very thorough medical and psychological evaluation to make sure Mark would be a suitable living donor candidate.

“Halfway through the testing process, we learned that even though he’s taller than me and bigger than me, Mark’s liver wasn’t big enough to sustain both of us through a living donation,” Jeff says. “To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.”

You've Got a Friend in Me

Jeff and Mark were both upset when they learned that Mark wouldn’t be able to donate. One of Mark’s best friends, John, came over to try to try to get him out of the house and cheer him up.

When John got there, he overheard Jeff and his mom talking about other options for liver donors. The topic of blood types spiked his interest.

“Well, we’re the same blood type,” John jumped in.

“You wanna donate your liver to me?” Jeff asked, without any preamble.

“Sure,” John answered, “What do I have to do?”

Testing, Testing

John had grown up with the Doerr family. He met Mark when he was seven or eight years old and was in the Eagle Scouts with both brothers. He went on camping, skiing and hiking trips with them.

After careful consideration, and much discussion with his own family and friends, John began working with the Penn Transplant living donor team to determine if he was a good match. Even throughout the evaluation process, John’s team encouraged him to understand the surgery and know the risks involved.

“My clinical team laid everything out on the table for me,” John says. “We discussed that, as with any serious procedure,  there is a very small risk of something happening. We were all on the same page.”

They told him at any point he could turn back. John, however, had made up his mind the day he said “yes.”

Jeff wanted to make sure that there wouldn’t be any extra burdens on John if he donated.

“The team at Penn assured me that no cost would be passed on to my donor, which was our concern first and foremost. Whatever cost came up for us, we figured by any means necessary we'd take care of it.  My insurance was helpful; I didn’t have to pay anything out of pocket for the transplant. I hope that John has never seen a bill and not told me about it. But as far as I know, he has not borne any cost whatsoever for this procedure,” says Jeff.

A New Liver, a Stronger Bond

A few months later, John donated a portion of his liver to Jeff, and the transplant was a success.

After a few weeks of recovery and taking it easy, John was able to return to his normal, active lifestyle.

“I didn’t have any physical therapy or rehab to do, honestly,” John says. “My recovery phase was easy and went quickly.”

Since Jeff’s health had been deteriorating for several months before the transplant, his road to recovery was a little bit slower. It took him about six months before he could go back to work, but after a year he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.

“It was definitely a worthwhile experience. Jeff is still here and that's what really matters,” says John. And the scar, he says, is a proud reminder that he did something worthwhile.

Jeff adds that their friendship-turned brotherhood has been a special experience: “We have a unique bond. A piece of him is sustaining me while we both continue to prosper in life.”

If you or someone you know needs a liver transplant, learn more about options and request an appointment at Penn.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Join Team Philadelphia at the 2016 Transplant Games of America

The Gift of Life Donor Program is assembling a team of transplant recipients, donor family members, living donors and their supporters to participate in this year's Transplant Games of America, an Olympic-style athletic competition.

The event is intended to raise organ and tissue donor awareness by displaying the talents and abilities of individuals of all ages who have undergone life-saving transplant surgeries, as well as honoring families whose loved ones have given the gift of life.

Important Dates

The Games will be held from June 10 through 15, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.

If you’re interested in participating on Team Philadelphia, the first team meeting will be held October 10 from noon to 3pm, with additional meetings to follow. The meeting will be located at:
Crown Plaza
260 Mall Blvd., King of Prussia, PA

Please RSVP to team manager, Kelly Antczak, at 215-557-8090 or

Events and Activities at the Games

Competition is open to organ transplant recipients, living donors, bone marrow recipients and corneal and tissue transplant recipients.

Special programs and workshops will be available for donor families, and they are welcome to cheer on the athletes as they compete.

Events at the Transplant Games include:
  • 5K/10K run/walk 
  • Badminton
  • Basketball
  • Bocce
  • Bowling
  • Cycling
  • Darts
  • Golf
  • Racquetball
  • Swimming
  • Table tennis
  • Tennis
  • Track and field
  • Volleyball
  • Ballroom dancing
  • Cornhole (bean bag toss)
  • Texas hold-em poker
  • Trivia challenge
  • Virtual triathlon
  • Youth Olympiad


Please contact the Gift of Life Donor Program to learn more and register.

We look forward to seeing you at the 2016 Transplant Games!