Texas Children’s Transplant Services team reaches milestone

May 30, 2017

An important milestone was recently reached at Texas Children’s Hospital that has one 17-year-old extremely grateful.

Joseph McCullough received a new liver on May 21, giving him a chance at a new life after battling primary sclerosing cholangitis, a life-threatening disease that causes end-stage liver disease. McCullough’s transplant was the 1,500th transplant performed by the Texas Children’s Transplant Services team.

“That’s fascinating,” Joseph said about being the 1,500th transplant recipient. “That’s unbelievable that I’m that number.”

Texas Children’s Surgeon-In-Chief Dr. Charles D. Fraser said the milestone – and the immeasurable service to children and families that it represents – is due to the hard work of the entire Transplant Services department and the multitude of other departments that support Transplant Services.

“I would like especially to thank to Dr. John Goss, medical director of Transplant Services and surgical director of the Liver Transplant Program at Texas Children’s, for providing strong leadership for the program and all of the medical and surgical directors of Transplant for their guidance, resilience in growing their programs and excellence in every aspect of patient care,” Fraser said. “Under their leadership, we have become not only one of the busiest pediatric transplant programs but also one of the best.”

Transplantation began at Texas Children’s in 1984 with a pediatric heart transplant that was performed by Dr. Denton Cooley. Since that time, liver, kidney and lung have been added and countless lives have been saved.

Just last year, 86 organ transplants were performed at Texas Children’s – 32 kidney transplants, 25 heart transplants, 21 liver transplants and 8 lung transplants – making Texas Children’s one of the most active pediatric transplant program in the nation, per the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.

Behind the statistics, there’s an exceptionally experienced and well-coordinated transplant program that draws on numerous medical, surgical and support specialties, and transplant coordinators who play an essential role in connecting recipients with prospective donors.

“I believe our success is a testimony to the skill and commitment of our multidisciplinary team,” Goss said. “Our team offers an interdisciplinary approach to all aspects of the transplant process, from initial referral to hospitalization and outpatient management. We also work closely with patients, families and referring physicians to help make the evaluation process as convenient and efficient as possible.”

Goss added that transplants are possible only because of the generous and selfless decisions made by donors and donor families. Without them, people like Joseph would run out of options.

“I can’t wait to play basketball again,” said the teenager, adding that anyone who can should become an organ donor. “I can’t wait to have a full day of school again as crazy as that sounds.”

Watch ABC-13’s news story about Joseph and click here to watch a video about Texas Children’s Transplant Program. Below are the stories of two more lives that have recently been touched by Texas Children’s Transplant team as well as information on how to become an organ donor.

Karla Alonzo
When Karla Alonzo was 13-years-old, she was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, the most common disease of the heart muscle which causes it to enlarge and not pump blood as well as a healthy heart can. In and out of the hospital in her hometown of Port Arthur for years, Karla was referred to Texas Children’s Hospital when she started to feel extremely weak, couldn’t walk up the stairs and was always thirsty. First, doctors started Karla on medication to help improve the condition, but it was not as successful as they hoped. Next, Karla was implanted with the HeartWare HVAD, which kept her going for a while. Recently, she got what she really needed – a heart transplant. Performed by Dr. Iki Adachi, the transplant went well. Karla has been discharged from the hospital and is at home continuing to recover.

Tenley Kennedy
One-year-old Tenley Kennedy was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a congenital heart defect that affects normal blood flow through the heart. As a result of her disease, Tenley has spent most of her life at Texas Children’s Hospital waiting for a heart transplant. On May 13, her day finally came. Performed by Dr. Carlos Mery, Tenley received a heart transplant. The little girl is still in the hospital recovering but should be able to go home very soon. Click here to watch KPRC’s story about Tenley.

To register to become an organ donor, click here.