University of Pennsylvania Health System

Liver Transplant Update | Penn Medicine

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!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Papal Visit Plans: Appointment Changes for Friday, September 25 and Monday, September 28

The week of September 21, 2015, Philadelphia will host an international conference, the World Meeting of Families, which culminates with a three-day visit from the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis.

We share in the City’s pride at having been selected to host these events. At this time, Penn Medicine is taking steps to plan for the impact of approximately two million attendees at the event, as well as the high level of security required for a world dignitary. It is expected that travel on major streets will be heavily restricted.

For these reasons, outpatient transplant appointments for Friday, September 25 and Monday, September 28 are being rescheduled. In the next few weeks, you will receive a letter noting the need to reschedule your appointment. Please feel free to contact the team in advance to reschedule for another appointment time that will be convenient for you.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Your transplant coordinators are available to answer any questions or concerns you may have about this appointment change.

The Penn Liver Transplant Team would like to thank you for understanding the circumstances that have created the need to reschedule. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Three FAQs About Live Liver Donation

Linda Wood
Linda Wood, RN, BSN, is a live liver donor coordinator at the Penn Transplant Institute. Linda has provided care to patients as a registered nurse for more than 20 years. In this article, she answers three of the most commonly asked questions about live donor liver transplantation.

Is it safe to be a living liver donor?

Protecting the donor's safety, health and well-being are the primary goals of the Penn Live Liver Donor Team’s evaluation process. As with any major surgery, there are some risks associated with living liver donation. While serious complications are rare, as with any surgery, they are possible.

All risks are outlined in detail for the donor during the evaluation. National studies have shown that approximately one-third of donors have some sort of postoperative complication and the great majority of complications are minor, reversible, or resolve on their own.

Potential serious side effects include bleeding, infection, liver failure, injury to the bile duct, complications from general anesthesia and death. The risk of death from being a living liver donor in the United States is less than 0.2 percent, which is similar to the risk of the average person being involved in a motor vehicle accident.

Who can be a donor?

To qualify as a living donor candidate, an individual must:
  • Have a compatible blood type
  • Be physically fit and have no significant medical problems
  • Not be obese based on the Body Mass Index
  • Be between 21 and 50 years of age; however, slightly younger or slightly older candidates may be considered on a case-by-case basis
  • Have health insurance
  • Be a family member, friend, or acquaintance of the recipient or their family

Is it possible for someone to be evaluated at Penn as a live liver donor if they live outside of the Greater Philadelphia Region?

The Penn Live Donor Liver team has developed a special evaluation protocol to meet the needs of long distance donors that helps to minimize their time away from home. It's important to note that after donation takes place and the donor is discharged from the hospital, it will be necessary for the donor to stay local to Philadelphia for approximately three to four weeks in order to make sure the recovery is proceeding as expected.

The recipient’s insurance will cover most medical/evaluation-related expenses for the donor, including testing/consults/surgery/hospitalization/and the first three months of post-operative follow-up and testing. The insurance may or may not pay for travel, lodging, and meal expenses incurred during the evaluation and transplant process. Donor candidates should ask our financial coordinators regarding coverage of those expenses. The National Living Donor Assistance Center offers financial support for travel costs associated with live donation.

Friday, August 7, 2015

National Minority Donation Awareness Week

During National Minority Donor Awareness Week, we wanted to share some information about why it's critical to increase the number of African American, Hispanic, Asian American and Pacific Islanders who say “yes” to organ donation.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HRSA), donors from the same ethnicity are more likely to be compatible. While organs are not specifically matched based on ethnic groups, HRSA notes that tissue markers and blood types are more likely to be found among members of the same ethnicity.

This is especially important because African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders currently comprise 58 percent of the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) transplant waiting list. According the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, last year 12,205 people of color received transplants, while 4,582 people of color went on to become organ donors.

The number of people of minorities waiting for an organ to become available, combined with the difficulty in finding compatible matches and the disproportionate number of African American, Hispanic, Asian American and Pacific Islander donors significantly contributes to the tragic reality that 18 people a day die in the United States waiting for an organ to become available.

In addition to this sobering statistic, many of the conditions leading to the need for a transplant — such as diabetes and hypertension — occur with greater frequency among people of color.

While research shows that the decision to donate is complex — with several different factors influencing families deciding about the opportunity to donate — experts agree that myths and misconceptions continue to keep people from all ethnicities from adding donor designation to their driver’s license and saying “yes” to donate a loved one’s organs.

Gift of Life Donor Program offers helpful myth busters to help people make decisions about organ and tissue donation based on facts instead of misinformation or fears. Here are a few misconceptions about organ donation followed by the facts from the Gift of Life web site:

Myth: If I'm in an accident and the hospital knows that I am designated as a donor, the doctors won't try to save my life.

Truth: Doctors, nurses and paramedics will do everything they can to save your life. In fact, an individual must be in a hospital, on a ventilator and pronounced brain dead in order to donate organs. Gift of Life Donor Program is not notified until life-saving efforts have failed. The transplant team is not notified by Gift of Life until permission has been given by the deceased’s family.

Myth: If I am a registered donor, doctors may remove my organs before I have passed away.

Truth: Brain death (when the brain dies due to lack of blood and oxygen) is a medically, legally and morally accepted determination of death. To determine brain death, more than one diagnosis of brain death and a series of tests over a period of time are required before the donor's family is presented with the opportunity to donate.

Myth: Organs can be bought or sold on the black market.

Truth: These stories are untrue and have become harmful urban legends. Due to the complexity of transplantation, the necessity of involvement from highly trained medical professionals, the process of matching donors with recipients, the need for modern medical facilities and the support necessary for transplantation make it impossible for this to actually happen. The buying and selling of organs and tissues is illegal, as part of the National Organ Transplant Act.

Myth: I am too old to be a donor.

Truth: There is no set age limit for organ and tissue donation. At the time of death, trained medical professionals will evaluate patients on a case-by-case basis to determine which organs and tissues are suitable for donation. Therefore, people of any age wishing to become organ and tissue donors should indicate it on their driver’s license and inform their family of their wishes.

Check out the Gift of Life Donor Program’s web site for more organ and tissue donation myth busters. If you’d like to learn more about what you can do to increase organ and tissue donation in your community, contact the Community Relations team from Gift of Life Donor Program at 1-800-DONORS-1.