Living Kidney Donation Perfectly Choreographed
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Living Kidney Donation Perfectly Choreographed 

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NORFOLK, Virginia - March 18, 2009 – Some Tuesdays it’s as if the two transplant teams in ORs 9 and 11 have mastered the precise and methodical steps of the waltz. When living donor kidney transplants are scheduled at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, one of the Commonwealth’s only solid organ transplant centers, the surgeries are nearly perfectly timed.

With the help of the transplant coordinator, the two surgeries are paced to arrive at the same place at the same time—the point of transplantation.

Patient Story: Theirs happened the week of Thanksgiving 2008
During the summer, then 24-year-old high school tutor Sarah Shultz had no reason to think she was seriously ill, just not feeling well. Once her doctors learned her kidneys were not functioning properly, she was immediately transported to the hospital where four months of dialysis began.

Otherwise healthy, Sarah Shultz was a good candidate for transplantation. Who would have guessed a donor match would be found so close to home?

“I was the first one tested, and we were an exact match,” says Anna Parks, Shultz’ 28-year-old sister. “I knew I’d be more than willing to give her a kidney, especially after seeing the life toll dialysis was taking,” continues Parks.

“Something about taking your blood out and replacing it was simply exhausting,” says Shultz about the 12 hours each week she spent on dialysis.

“The willingness to donate a kidney is amazing. Some inconveniences for living kidney donors make the gift particularly generous, but the laparoscopic approach to kidney removal has decreased discomfort from surgery and shortened recovery times,” says urologist Edwin L. Robey, M.D., who practices at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

Like Parks’ surgery, most living donor kidney surgeries at Norfolk General are now done laparoscopically, sparing donors long hospitals stays and even longer recoveries. Through tiny slits in the patient’s abdomen, surgeons like Robey carefully find their way to the donor’s kidney. Using laparoscopic instruments equipped with a small camera and light, he navigates each move using the images of the surgery projected on large computer screens in a dark operating room.

At just the right time, a transplant surgeon like John O. Colonna, II, M.D., who is responsible for performing the recipient’s surgery, joins Robey in the donor surgery. Colonna receives
the kidney just as it is removed and places in a stainless steel bowl filled with ice. Under a spotlight illuminating a nearby work area in the still dark OR, Colonna carefully sets to work preparing the kidney for his patient. After carefully covering it, and briskly rolling the protected kidney to the other OR, Colonna works under bright lights to connect the kidney, which begins to function even before the surgery is finished.

“Even after almost 20 years of doing kidney transplants, I still get a thrill watching a kidney pink up and start producing urine. I know immediately that my patient has had their life transformed by the gift of a living donor transplant,” says Colonna.

Shultz is still adjusting to life with her new kidney, but one thing is for sure, “That was the best gift I’ve ever received. My sister was so selfless, and it has literally changed my life,” Shultz says.

Sentara Hosts Interactive Webcast Event
See for yourself the intricate coordination of a living donor kidney transplantation shown from Sentara Norfolk General Hospital over the internet Wednesday March 25 at 6 p.m. To watch the surgery, visit ExploreHealth With Sentara or view the on-demand surgery webcast later.

Sentara Norfolk General Hospital transplant surgeon Dr. John O. Colonna, II and urologist Dr. Edwin L. Robey, both associate professors at Eastern Virginia Medical School, will moderate the event, sharing the details of the donor and recipient surgeries. Dr. Harlan Rust, a nephrologist at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, who cares for kidney transplant recipients before and after surgery, will also share his perspective about living kidney donation.

Other participants include sisters Sarah Shultz and Anna Parks, joined by Mitzi Nichols, who donated a kidney in 2001, to share their stories over the webcast.

Sentara Uses Twitter
Sentara will use Twitter to share updates about the living donor kidney transplant webcast. Doctors and patients will take live questions over the Internet and through the social media forum of Twitter to interact with viewers all over the country. To sign up for Sentara's Twitter feed, visit  Twitter.

Since 1972, more than 1,800 kidney transplants have been performed by surgeons at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, which is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the nation’s top 50 hospitals for the care of patients with kidney disease. The transplant program is vital to that recognition.

As of March 6, exactly 2,127 people are awaiting kidneys in Virginia. In 2007, 168 living donor transplants were performed in the Commonwealth. 1 Since 1988, Sentara has performed 441 living donations. Living donation offers an alternative for individuals awaiting transplantation. For more information on living kidney donation, please visit the United Network for Organ Sharing Web site.

12/2009


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