A Birthday Gift for Tracy
Twenty-five is a lucky number for Tracy Barnett, of Giddings, Texas.
Last year, he celebrated his 25th birthday. He also got the news of a lifetime on September 25, when a pair of lungs became available to relieve the young man of a debilitating disease he had battled his entire life. Mr. Barnett had bronchiectasis (a difficult to diagnose condition), and pulmonary hypertension. Both conditions made it hard to breathe, and they eventually ravaged his lungs. By the time Mr. Barnett was referred to Scott & White, and saw Kirkland Nolan, MD, head of the division of pulmonary medicine at Scott & White Hospital - Round Rock, his lungs had deteriorated to the point where he was told he may only have months to live. Mr. Barnett had to quit work and rely on oxygen tanks and breathing treatments to help him survive. Luckily, he had to wait only a month for a new set of lungs. He would be the first person at Scott & White to receive a lung transplant.
Last January, Scott & White received certification for lung transplantation from the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS), the governing body for organ transplantation. Until that point, two dozen people each year in Central Texas had to leave the area for a lung transplant. Now, more patients are counting on Scott & White for this lifesaving surgery.
After a three-week hospital stay following his successful transplant and intensive care, Mr. Barnett had continued follow-up visits to Juan Sanchez, MD, medical director of the lung transplantation program, and pulmonary medicine specialist Heath White, DO. Now, Mr. Barnett feels great. “It’s wonderful to go dancing on the weekends and listen to country music. I can also run up the stairs to a movie theater with my friends, which I couldn’t do before,” he says. “Now I’m back to work driving my truck. It’s not just a career—it’s my passion!”
Making the Call on a Donor Organ
Scott & White Healthcare performs heart, kidney, lung and pancreas transplants. But it’s a waiting game for patients and caregivers for a donor organ match. Organ transplantation patient candidates can wait days, weeks or sometimes years for a compatible donor organ. They are heavily supported by their caregivers, who keep a close eye on their patients, and a ready ear for the news that an organ is available.
The United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) is the governing body responsible for organ distribution, and it works hand-in-hand with specialists at Scott & White. When the call comes into Scott & White from UNOS, a patient’s team knows the drill. They are ready to handle the chain of communication and tasks that must be completed to confirm the organ is patient compatible, and ensure its safe delivery to Scott & White. Time is of the essence, however. When an organ becomes available, a six-hour window exists to retrieve the organ and transplant it into the patient. Before that happens, a decision must be made about whether the organ is a good match.
When an organ becomes available, UNOS contacts the transplant coordinator at Scott & White. After reviewing both the patient candidate’s and donor’s records, the transplant coordinator assesses the viability of the organ match, and contacts the attending surgeon who will decide whether to accept or reject the donor organ. The coordinator contacts UNOS with the decision, and if it’s a match, wheels literally are set in motion to retrieve the organ.
Scott & White, like all healthcare systems that have transplantation programs in the United States, must maintain very high quality standards for transplantation and meet volume requirements to remain part of the UNOS network. “These organs are very limited. They don’t allow everybody to do these kinds of operations,” says Basar Sareyyupoglu, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon, and director of Thoracic Transplantation and Mechanical Circulatory Support at Scott & White Healthcare. Scott & White also partners with the Southwest Transplant Alliance, an organ procurement organization. For more information on organ transplantation, please visit transplant.sw.org.
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