University of Pennsylvania Health System

Liver Transplant Update | Penn Medicine

Friday, July 31, 2015

Is It Safe to Swim After Transplant?

Dr. Emily Blumberg
If swimming is on your list of summer fun activities, take a minute to check out this interview with Emily Blumberg, MD, a national expert in transplant infectious disease and a member of the infectious disease team here at Penn. We asked Dr. Blumberg to explain the risks involved in swimming and her suggestions for avoiding infections while enjoying the activity. Here are her recommendations.

Why is it important for liver transplant recipients to learn about safe swimming?

We know that significant infections can result from water exposure, so it’s critical for liver transplant recipients to understand:
  • Where it is safe to swim
  • Where it is not safe to swim
  • When it is not safe to swim

Where is it safe for liver transplant recipients to swim?

It’s safe for liver transplant patients to swim in chlorinated pools. In most cases, the ocean is also okay, but patients should avoid swimming in the Chesapeake because the presence of some dangerous bacteria has been found there in recent years.

If liver transplant patients experience any kind of abrasion while in the ocean, the abrasion should be thoroughly cleaned with soap and an uncontaminated water source -- not the water they are swimming in -- to minimize the risk of infection.

Where is it unsafe for liver transplant recipients to go swimming?

Fresh-water swimming represents a high risk for infection. So it’s not safe for liver transplant recipients to swim in fresh water of any kind, which includes ponds, lakes, creeks, rivers and streams. Since it’s often part of vacation recreation, it’s probably helpful to mention that, because of several infection risks, hot tubs should also be avoided.

When is it unsafe for liver transplant recipients to go swimming?

If you are a liver transplant recipient with an open wound of any kind, it is not safe to swim at all. In addition, swimming should be avoided if you are being treated for rejection.

Remember, if you have questions about safe swimming, contact your transplant coordinator to verify that swimming is safe option for you before you go.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Volunteer at the Penn Transplant House

For many people, choosing the Penn Transplant Institute requires traveling far from home, which can be challenging throughout the transplant journey. As they explore transplant, receive consultations while waiting for an organ to become available and begin their recovery after the surgery, they have to navigate these new experiences in a large, unfamiliar city, without their typical community of support.

To support these patients and their family and friends who are caring for them, we built the Clyde F. Barker Penn Transplant House. The House provides a conveniently located guesthouse – a home away from home for transplant patients and their families and caregivers. Volunteers are invited to join us to share a touch of kindness and comfort that helps make the House a home, and nothing says comfort like a home-cooked meal.

You and your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers are invited to donate an evening to the Guest Chef’s program and prepare and share a meal with our out-of-town guests. We've found that this really helps ease the stress associated with meal planning and preparation.

If you're interested in serving as a guest chef at the Penn Transplant House, here are some quick facts about the program and ideas for participation.

Number of Guests

The anticipated number of guests is confirmed on the Friday afternoon prior to the meal date, when most new reservations are made. The number of expected guests for the following week may increase.

Preparing the Meal

It's perfectly acceptable to cook food in advance and simply reheat it. The Transplant House has two ovens, and different dishes can be cooked at the same time. Guest chefs may arrive several hours ahead of time to prepare the entire meal, but they are asked to notify the house manager prior to their arrival.

Kitchen Supplies

The Transplant House has a fully stocked kitchen with pots, pans, cookie sheets; cooking, serving and eating utensils; and bowls. It has all of the dinnerware and glassware needed for the meals, as well as a food processor, blender and hand-mixers. If there is a unique item needed to prepare the meal, please check with the house manager to find out if it is available.

Meal Planning and Dietary Restrictions

Since meals are not prepared each night and guests are not always the same, specific dietary needs and restrictions of guests are not known. Previous dinners have consisted of both patients and family members of patients. A typical meal may include: soup or salad, a protein, a starch, veggies, dessert and a beverage. (Please note: The Transplant House is an alcohol-free facility).

To be as welcoming and hospitable to all of the guests as possible, a vegetarian option should be available for each meal. Having a diabetic option for the desserts is also helpful and has been greatly appreciated by guests in the past. If you would like help in creating a meal plan, or would like to speak with someone about meal ideas, please contact the house manager, Kirsten King, at 215-662-4540.


Dinner is generally served between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m. Please let the house manager know prior to the date of your dinner what your anticipated meal time is, so the guests may be notified and plan accordingly.


Since this house is also home to its guests, anyone who uses the kitchen is asked to clean up. To assist in the cleaning process, the house has three dishwashers, as well as the necessary cleaning supplies for the counter tops and kitchen surfaces, readily available.

Be Our Guest

The guest chef program is a fun way for individuals and groups to get involved in the important support the house provides. Our guests are always appreciative of the food and community building, as well as the generous gift of time and talent that each guest chef gives.

For more information on becoming a guest chef or to schedule a dinner with the Transplant House, please contact the house manager, Kirsten King, at 215-662-4540.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Summer Opportunity to Build Your Community of Support

July Liver Transplant Support Groups

Date: Tuesday, July 14 and Tuesday, July 28

Time: 12:00 to 1:00 pm

Location: Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine
3400 Civic Center Blvd.
Philadelphia PA 19104
Penn Transplant Institute - 2 West Conference Room

The liver transplant journey can present unique challenges throughout each phase of transplantation. Whether you're considering liver transplant, waiting for a liver to become available or continuing with life post-transplant, building a community of support is an important and ongoing process.

One resource that can help you connect with people who are having similar experiences is the Penn Liver Transplant Support Group. This group of people and caregivers meets twice a month and provides an opportunity to discuss all kinds of issues and offer suggestions to others based on what you have learned.

This group is invaluable for both pre- and post-transplant patients and their friends and family who offer support. Our liver transplant patients tell us that it’s helpful and encouraging to hear stories from people who have been through the process and connect with people who are also experiencing life on the transplant waiting list. Participating in the group as transplant recipient can also be beneficial, as it provides an opportunity for post-transplant patients to share the experiences to help others.

The July groups will meet on Tuesday, July 14 and Tuesday, July 28 at the 2 West Conference Room in the Penn Transplant Institute, which is located at the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine.

For additional information, please call 215-662-6200.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Help Those Considering a Liver Transplant: Share Your Story

At Penn, we are committed to helping patients build an effective community of support, that complements the care we give, with different types of practical help throughout the transplant process.

That’s why we offer a special feature on the blog called “Share Your Story.”

While patients and their caregivers receive ongoing clinical and social work support from our team, one additional meaningful source of support patients tell us they’ve received comes from connecting with people who have already been through the liver transplant process.
While this connection often happens at the Liver Transplant Support Group, not everyone can attend the meetings. To help connect our patients who are waiting for livers to become available with people who had successful liver transplants, we offer a regular feature called “Share Your Story”.

If you are a post-transplant patient or support person who would like to share a few encouraging pointers for those who are waiting and their support people, we’d love to hear from you.

You can email your story to Transplant Outreach Coordinator, Margaret Leid at

If you have a story to tell but writing isn’t something you love to do, contact Margaret at 215-298-3929 and she can work together with you to capture your story in writing.

We look forward to sharing these stories soon!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Maria Molina, MSN, CRNP, Receives International Nursing Excellence Award

The International Transplant Nursing Society (ITNS) announced the recipient of this year’s Nursing Excellence Award: our Penn colleague, heart transplant nurse practitioner, Maria Molina!

This special recognition is awarded annually and honors the unique role that transplant nurses play throughout the complex and often challenging continuum of care required for a successful transplant.

Maria was selected because her career exemplifies the ITNS mission of promoting excellence in transplant clinical nursing. Nominations for Maria to receive this prestigious award highlighted her dedication to patient care, education and research, as well as her outstanding leadership qualities. One nomination from a colleague praised her vision of developing methods to synthesize theories in ways that are most useful to practice and guiding clinical outcomes.

In addition to providing excellent patient care for heart transplant patients at Penn, Maria has worked in collaboration with the American Nursing Association, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and the American Association of Critical Care to develop guidelines that shape cardiovascular nursing practice in the United States.

Donna Chojnowski MSN, CRNP, director of Clinical Operations Advanced Cardiac Care at the Penn Heart and Vascular Center praised the ITNS for recognizing Maria’s accomplishments and contributions.

“Despite the full-time challenges of her role as a transplant nurse practitioner, and the rigor required to maintain clinical expertise, Maria has made significant educational and research strides,” says Donna. “These ongoing accomplishments identify Maria as a leader in transplant nursing.”

Over the course of her career, Maria has contributed to more than 30 research abstracts. This year, she submitted research that garnered the ITNS 2015 Best Research Abstract Award. In addition to these important personal accomplishments, she currently serves as a resource for transplant nurses throughout the greater Philadelphia area in her role as the director of Professional Development for the Delaware Valley Chapter of the ITNS.

Congratulations, Nurse Molina, and best of luck in your future endeavors. We are so proud of you!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Gift of Life Donor Program: New Transplant National Record

Please join Penn Medicine and the Penn Transplant Institute as we take a moment to celebrate the impressive work of Gift of Life Donor Program that lead their achievement of a new national record in organ donation and transplantation last month.

Thanks to the compassion and generosity of 52 people in our region who said “yes” to organ donation, Gift of Life Donor Program was able to facilitate the transplantation of 152 life-saving organs during the month of May. In the United States, this is the highest number of transplants ever coordinated in one month by an organ procurement organization within its own region.

In addition to this impressive milestone, Gift of Life managed and coordinated an additional 33 transplants from organs that came from donors outside of the Greater Philadelphia region, bringing the total number of transplants coordinated in our region for one month to 185.

This hard work and commitment of the Gift of Life staff, and strong partnership with all the transplant teams throughout our region, resulted in a total of 78 kidneys becoming available for transplantation, 44 livers, 19 hearts, 40 lungs* and four pancreas. To add to this remarkable success, the bone, muscle and tissue that was recovered from 108 tissue donors during May will improve thousands of lives.

Congratulations Gift of Life Donor Program and thank you for your outstanding advocacy and excellent results.

*Lungs are counted individually by Gift of Life, so a bilateral lung transplant is reported as two lungs placed.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Tips for Liver Transplant Recipients to Stay Safe in the Sun

Summer is on its way, along with plenty of sunshine. Even now as spring gets into full swing, it's important to practice good sun protection while outdoors to prevent skin cancers, such as melanoma. To be well protected, the goal is not to get a sunburn or even a tan.

For liver transplant recipients, not only is it important, it’s critical to take skin health seriously and partner with your healthcare providers to protect yourself. You should take every step you can to minimize your risk.

The reason that careful attention to skin is so serious for transplant patients is because some of the medications prescribed to protect a transplanted liver increase your risk for developing skin cancer. This is particularly true for anyone who has ever had sunburn.

While people with fair skin and light colored eyes are at a higher risk, those with darker skin tones are still vulnerable to skin cancer. Take an active role in this part of your healthcare by practicing early detection and skin cancer prevention.

Protecting yourself from the sun throughout the year is easy to add into your daily routine. By simply wearing protective clothing, such as a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and long sleeves, and applying sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or above every couple hours, you can protect your skin from sun-related skin damage. It’s also wise to avoid midday sun between 10am to 2 pm.

In addition to these sun smarts, the Penn Liver Transplant team strongly encourages its patients to see a dermatologist within the first six months following their transplant and once a year after the initial appointment. A dermatologist is specially trained to evaluate and treat disorders of the skin, including infections, rashes and skin cancer. Penn dermatologists offer special expertise in treating post-transplant patients and managing their increased risks.

If you have questions about staying safe in the sun, call your Penn Lung Transplant coordinator or use the “Contact Your Care Team Button” in the MyPennMedicine online portal.