April 29, 2019

On April 26, superheroes of all sizes assembled on The Auxiliary Bridge to celebrate National Pediatric Transplant Week, observed each year during the last full week of National Donate Life Month in April.

The event, hosted by Texas Children’s Transplant Services, marked the end of a week that focuses on the powerful message of ending the pediatric transplant waiting list. There were plenty of fun activities for children, including karaoke, hula-hooping, coloring and crafts, a photo wall, and a visit from Elsa, one of Texas Children’s three therapy dogs. There were also educational materials available on organ donation and transplantation.

The event also honored real-life superheroes – the donor families whose children have saved and healed lives through organ, eye and tissue donation.

The gift of an organ transplant comes to one family as another family is enduring the most difficult time of their lives. The team in Transplant Services works hand in hand with Texas Children’s Spiritual Care Department during these times to provide donor families with compassionate support, to honor the choice to donate an organ, and to honor the legacy of the patient.

There are several ways we recognize the legacies of these children and their families, including:

  • The observance of moments of honor, small ceremonies during which the gift of the organ donation is acknowledged and celebrated through readings and a blessing or prayer
  • Flag ceremonies, at which a Donate Life Flag is displayed and family, Texas Children’s staff and chaplains, and our LifeGift partners gather to tell stories about the patient, let the family touch the flag, share a group reading, and then the flag is then passed around the unit to be signed with messages of support and recognition from Transplant Services staff
  • National Donor Sabbath, an annual three-day observance where members of local faith communities participate in services and programs to honor donor families and to educate the public about the need for lifesaving transplants

In addition to these heartfelt moments of acknowledgement and remembrance, Texas Children’s Hospital has begun a new tradition to honor our donor families.

As the sun went down on April 22, Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower was illuminated in green and white. The tower was lit each evening for the rest of the week, both in commemoration of National Donate Life Month and Pediatric Transplant Week, and also as a tribute to our donor families. Going forward, the lighting of the tower will serve as yet another way Texas Children’s acknowledges them.

“Nothing we do would be possible without our donor families, and we wanted to find another way to honor them,” said Dr. John Goss, medical director of Transplant Services. “Now when people see Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower lit in green and white, they will know there’s a hero here at Texas Children’s who has just given the gift of life.”

About Transplant Services at Texas Children’s

Transplant Services at Texas Children’s was the nation’s largest pediatric transplant program in 2018, performing a remarkable 107 solid organ transplants including the highest volumes of pediatric liver, lung and kidney transplants.

Transplant Services provides a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to care through all aspects of the transplant process, from initial referral to hospitalization and outpatient management. Our team of experts includes physicians and surgical advanced practice providers, transplant coordinators, pediatric ventricular assist device coordinators, perfusionists, child life specialists, dieticians, social workers, financial counselors, pharmacists, inpatient and outpatient nursing and support staff, Perioperative Services, physical and occupational therapists, Radiology, Pathology, our LifeGift partners, and many others.

Our depth of skill and service enables us to offer world-class care for patients, from newborns to young adults, in need of heart, kidney, liver and lung transplants. That expertise has allowed us to successfully treat some cases that other national and international programs might consider untreatable.

Learn more about Transplant Services at Texas Children’s Hospital.

March 11, 2019
 

Transplant Services at Texas Children’s once again led the way as the nations’ largest pediatric transplant program, performing a remarkable 107 solid organ transplants in 2018. That figure includes the highest volume of pediatric liver, lung and kidney transplants in the United States.

For the year, we performed:

  • 44 pediatric liver transplants
  • 12 lung transplants
  • 31 kidney transplants
  • 20 heart transplants

“I want to congratulate everyone on our outstanding Transplant Services team, which continues to provide excellent care and support for our transplant patients and families,” said Texas Children’s Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Larry Hollier. “I would also like to thank the leaders of our transplant programs – Dr. John Goss, Dr. Jeffrey Heinle, Dr. Jeff Dreyer, Dr. Tina Melicoff, Dr. Daniel Leung, Dr. Christine O’Mahony, Dr. Eileen Brewer and Dr. Ryan Himes – who go above and beyond to uphold high standards.”

Transplant Services provides a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to care through all aspects of the transplant process, from initial referral to hospitalization and outpatient management. Our team of experts includes physicians and surgical advanced practice providers, transplant coordinators, pediatric ventricular assist device coordinators, perfusionists, child life specialists, dieticians, social workers, financial counselors, pharmacists, inpatient and outpatient nursing and support staff, Perioperative Services, physical and occupational therapists, Radiology, Pathology, our LifeGift partners, and many others.

Our depth of skill and service enables us to offer world-class care for patients, from newborns to young adults, in need of heart, kidney, liver and lung transplants. That expertise has allowed us to successfully treat some cases that other national and international programs might consider untreatable.

“This is another tremendous milestone for our program,” said Dr. John Goss, medical director of Transplant Services. “I couldn’t be prouder of our team for their commitment toward achieving positive outcomes and for the dedication they show our patients every day.”

One of those patients is Jameson Finney.

For the first 12 years of his life, Jameson was an active little boy that always moved at 100 miles an hour, his parents said. There was never the slightest indication that he might have a heart condition. On Christmas Day 2017, while opening presents with his family, Jameson suddenly became ill. Two days later, he was admitted to Texas Children’s heart failure intensive care unit and diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart muscle – typically starting in the left ventricle – begins to stretch and become thin. The dilation makes the muscle unable to contract properly, which weakens the heart and can lead to heart failure.

Jameson was experiencing severe heart failure and needed life-saving surgery as soon as possible. Texas Children’s congenital heart surgeon Dr. Iki Adachi implanted a ventricular assist device on December 31, which improved Jameson’s condition so much that we was able to go home after less than a month. But his journey wasn’t over. Jameson’s best chance at survival now was a heart transplant, and he was placed on the list on March 30, 2018 – Good Friday. Less than two months later, Jameson received the miraculous gift of a new heart. Adachi, who also performed the transplant, said Jameson has been doing very well since his surgery.

Jameson’s story is just one example of the amazing work done by Transplant Services in 2018. But none of the work we do would be possible without the selfless decisions that our donor families make during the most difficult time of their lives.

“Our donor families are heroes, said Goss. “They truly give our patients a second chance at life.”

Learn more about Transplant Services at Texas Children’s.

October 15, 2018
On October 6, nearly 500 Texas Children’s patients, parents and employees took a walk on the wild side at the Houston Zoo for the first Fall Family Festival, sponsored by Texas Children’s Transplant Services.

“It’s special for these patients to have an event like this,” said Medical Director of Transplant Services Dr. John Goss. “It’s exciting for these children to be able to play and interact with each other, and it’s truly a testament to what our multidisciplinary team can do.”

It was a morning full of fun and festivities, as 106 current and former Texas Children’s transplant patients and their families gathered for face painting, snow cones, music from a live DJ and a lunch buffet at the Masihara Pavilion. Rather than holding a special ceremony, the festival simply provided kids with an opportunity to come together and have fun with other kids who’ve been through similar ordeals, and to remind them that they’re not alone.

“Being together in a fun, social setting is so important for transplant recipients,” said Riki Graves, whose daughter, Juliana, had a life-saving heart transplant at Texas Children’s in 2014 – at just 17 days old. “This event was a wonderful way to let kids get know to know other kids who’ve been through transplant, or are waiting, so they can feel like normal kids and not like a sick child who is different or needs special care.”

Graves says the event was also a special way to thank transplants recipients’ biggest supporters – their siblings – who usually feel the hospital stays and extra care given to the recipients more deeply than the rest of the family.

Transplantation began at Texas Children’s in 1984, when Dr. Denton Cooley performed a pediatric heart transplant. Since that time, Transplant Services at Texas Children’s Hospital has grown into one of the largest pediatric programs in the nation, performing 112 solid organ transplants in 2017, making it the most active pediatric transplant program in the nation. Our depth of skill and service, both within the program and throughout the hospital, gives us the ability to care for newborns to young adults in need of heart, kidney, liver and lung transplants.

Transplant Services is proud of its long list of firsts, including the hospital’s first – and 1 of only 3 in the nation – triple transplant of heart, lungs and liver in one procedure. We also performed the first pediatric lung-kidney transplant in the United States. Since 2004, 25 patients have been transplanted with double organs, including liver-kidney, liver-lung, heart-lung, heart-kidney and lung-kidney.

Learn more about Transplant Services at Texas Children’s.

September 18, 2018
As part of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Texas Children’s Bone Marrow Transplant Unit (BMT) was transformed for a few hours last week into a full-fledged parade route – music, costumes and all.

The Lace Up 4 Life event – hosted in part by Be The Match, which manages the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world – began in the inpatient portion of the unit with patients dressed in super hero capes and costumes parading downs the halls with staff members by their side and cheering them on.

“We enjoy this event every year,” said Dr. Robert Krance, director of the Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT)/Stem Cell Transplant Program at Texas Children’s Hospital. “It’s a time for us to celebrate the lives of those who have been saved by a bone marrow transplant, and to remember those who are still racing to find a match.”

After several laps around the inpatient unit, patients retired to their rooms while the parade continued to the outpatient portion of the unit, pausing for a special announcement from Hope Guidry-Groves with Be The Match.

“Today, 16-year-old Jacob Bustamente is going to meet his donor, Heather Wallace, for the very first time,” Guidry-Groves said. “We are so fortunate to be a part of an organization that makes moments like these possible.”

Jacob is a patient at Texas Children’s and so is Wallace’s son. When they first laid eyes on one another they quickly embraced in a long, emotional hug.

“Thank you so much,” Bustamente said. “You are such a blessing.”

Wallace told the audience that everyone should join the marrow registry. “There’s no reason not to,” she said.

Texas Children’s Cancer Center has a premier bone marrow and stem cell transplantation program. Our state-of-the-art, 15-bed inpatient transplant unit is among the largest of its kind in the Southwestern United States and focuses exclusively on transplantation. The Bone Marrow Transplant Clinic performs over 100 transplants per year.

Texas Children’s works closely with Be The Match to find donors for our patients. Learn how marrow donation works, the steps of a patient transplant, steps of donation, and factors that can impact the likelihood of finding a match here. A marrow transplant may be someone’s only hope for a cure.

September 4, 2018
In 2002, Dr. George Mallory helped establish Texas Children’s Lung Transplant Program and has built it into one of the world’s preeminent pediatric programs, with a reputation for collaborative, patient-centered care. This year, Mallory is passing the torch of medical leadership to Dr. Tina Melicoff, who will lead the program in partnership with surgical director Dr. Jeffrey Heinle.

“We all share Texas Children’s vision of taking care of children with complex lung conditions,” said Melicoff. “Cases that would be too complex to treat elsewhere are common at Texas Children’s. With our amazing team, and our focus on clinical and basic research, we can continue to build on Dr. Mallory’s incredible legacy of compassionate care and clinical excellence.”

Under Mallory’s distinguished leadership, the program has reached some extraordinary milestones. It is one of the largest lung transplant programs in the world – and the most active, with the highest clinical volume of any program over the past five years. Experts at Texas Children’s have performed more than 200 lung transplants, completing more in the past five years than any other pediatric program. Over the past ten years, the program has been one of only three that consistently performs transplants in infants and young children. It is also one of only two programs performing 10 or more pediatric transplants per year. And even with high volume, the program has a pristine record of below-average wait list times, with a median wait time of less than four months, shorter than most other programs.

Mallory, who is transitioning to the role of Medical Director Emeritus, attributes the program’s success to the collaborative and comprehensive approach to care, which includes surgery, pulmonary medicine and immunology services, infectious disease expertise, social work, nutrition, psychological care, basic and clinical research, and more.

“One of the things I’m most proud of that we’ve achieved is a fabulous multidisciplinary team,” he said. “That’s common language in modern medicine, but we really have a great team”

As the program moves forward under new leadership, that team will continue to work together for the same shared goals: improving outcomes, delaying chronic rejection and keeping children where they should be – with their families.

“Easily, the single best thing is to have engaged honestly and deeply with patients and families and see the majority of them capture years of quality of life,” Mallory said. “What we do here is much more than a dry scientific pursuit; it’s an amazing opportunity to see miracles happen.”

To learn more, watch the video.

July 10, 2018
Texas Children’s Transplant Services has hit another milestone – the completion of 200 lung transplants and 400 heart transplants, making the program one of the highest volume pediatric heart and lung transplant centers in the nation.

The milestone continues to solidify Texas Children’s position as one of the most active pediatric transplant programs in the country, per the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.

“This type of volume has only been accomplished in a handful of pediatric programs across the United States,” Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Larry Hollier said. “We are proud to add Texas Children’s Hospital to this distinguished list.”

Transplantation began at Texas Children’s in 1984 with a pediatric heart transplant. Since that time, liver, kidney and lung have been added and countless lives have been saved. Just last year, Texas Children’s Transplant teams performed 112 solid organ transplants, the most in the history of Texas Children’s Transplant Services.

“I’m proud to be working with a team so dedicated to providing the best possible outcomes for our patients,” said Dr. John Goss, medical director of Transplant Services. “This milestone demonstrates that Texas Children’s continues to earn its reputation as one of the best pediatric transplant programs in the country, and is a testament to the skill and commitment of our multidisciplinary team.”

Texas Children’s Transplant Services draws on numerous medical, surgical and support specialties, including transplant coordinators who play an essential role in connecting recipients with prospective donors, who ultimately made the transplant process possible.

“Without our donor families, our patients would not be given the gift that provides them a second chance at life,” said Dr. Jeff Heinle, surgical director of the Heart and Lung Transplant Program. “We can never forget to acknowledge the selfless decisions they make during the most difficult times of their lives.”

The recipients of Texas Children’s 200th lung transplant and 400th heart transplant are both doing well. Read more about their stories below as well as information about Texas Children’s Transplant Program and how to become an organ donor.

Brandon Cliff
Twelve-year-old Brandon Cliff has Cystic Fibrosis, a progressive genetic disease that causes lung infections, makes breathing difficult, and affects the pancreas, liver and other organs. The disease eventually leads to lung failure. Due to such complications, Brandon had been under consideration for a transplant for more than a year before receiving a double lung transplant on June 21. Performed by Dr. Iki Adachi, the transplant went well. Brandon was discharged from the hospital on July 3 and is ready to play with his brothers, cousins and friends as well as golf and basketball. Watch Fox 26’s news story about Brandon here.

Anacecilia Ortiz
Anacecilia Ortiz turned 14 at the beginning of July, just days after receiving her second heart transplant. The teenager got her first transplant at a children’s hospital in Colorado when she was 7 months old. Doctors there told her a transplant was necessary after finding a tumor inside her heart that was growing and could not be operated on. Over the years, Anacecilia’s body began to reject her new heart, causing it to develop scar tissue and not beat as hard as it should. A few serious dizzy spells earlier this year led Anacecilia’s physician in Brownsville to send her to Texas Children’s, where she was placed on the transplant list after trying medication. A month and a half later in mid-June, Anaceclila received her second heart transplant. Since then, she’s been doing extremely well and is currently recovering at her Pearland home.

May 9, 2018
From the time Colton Makow was born, he faced an uphill battle. He spent his first 61 days of life in Texas Children’s Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and while there, was told by doctors that his kidneys were damaged from lack of oxygen and that he one day would need a transplant.

Devastated by the news, Colton’s mother, Julie Makow, knew she would do everything she could to save her son, including giving him one of her kidneys if that’s what it took to keep him alive.

“I always thought, if given the chance, that’s going to be the one thing I can do to make it better,” Julie said. “I knew I was going to be a part of that, and that I would be the first one tested to be a match.”

Julie got her chance to see if she was a viable donor candidate when doctors told her and Colton, then 6 years old, that it was time to make a move toward getting a kidney transplant. After the test, Julie was told she was a perfect match and that she could donate one of her kidneys to her son.

In February, Dr. Christine O’Mahony, surgical director of kidney transplantation at Texas Children’s Hospital, performed the surgery. Texas Children’s performs about 30 kidney transplants a year. When the organ comes from a living donor, it typically lasts longer. For Colton, that means hopefully it will be a long time before he needs another transplant.

“He’ll have to go see the physicians a lot more frequently than he would if he were another kid, he’ll have to get labs, but his life will otherwise be the same,” O’Mahony said. “He can play sports, go to school and be just like everybody else.”

Kirti Bhakta, the transplant coordinator who worked with Colton and Julie, said she has witnessed the selfless sacrifices parents make for their children time and time again.

“It is truly heartwarming,” she said. “So many of our parents will do anything to give their children a better chance at a good life. Their actions are the epitome of unconditional love.”

Dr. Sarah Swartz, medical director of dialysis for Texas Children’s Hospital, also worked with Colton and Julie and said their story is perfect for Mother’s Day.

“Colton now has the chance to live a better life, thanks to his mom,” Swartz said. “What a beautiful reminder to him and others the power of a mother’s love as well as the difference an organ donor can make in someone’s life.”

Click here to learn more about how to become an organ donor and here to read a story by KHOU11 about the Makows.