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Outcomes

A Transplant Triumph at Tower Health: A Six-Antigen Match for a Kidney Recipient

When an ideal donor match arrived at the Transplant Institute at Tower Health in Reading, Pennsylvania, the care team was ready

A successful transplant requires that months of careful preparation culminate in one perfectly executed day. One patient’s care team was ready to meet the challenge on short notice when a rare organ match became available.

In the fall of 2020, the transplant team was new to Tower Health in Pennsylvania, having joined a few months earlier when their original location at Hahnemann University Hospital closed. The transplant would be their first using Phoenix, Epic’s transplant application, and the backdrop of the ongoing pandemic necessitated additional safety precautions for both the recipient and the care team.

David Reich, MD, director of Tower Health’s Transplant Institute, shares the story of the transplant and the lessons he has learned from its success. 

Can you tell us what happened when you found out that a donor organ was available for the patient?

“The day of a transplant is always exciting, but this surgery was different. We had just gone live with Epic’s transplant software and were contending with the pandemic, so things were already quite busy, but we got word of a rare organ match and jumped at the opportunity.  

“Our patient was a 67-year-old man who had been shot in one kidney during a robbery at work. The injury meant that the kidney needed to be removed, and because he had congenital kidney disease, losing that kidney forced him onto dialysis. The kidney that became available was a rare six-antigen match—the best compatibility for our patient that we could hope for.

“We immediately said yes and got to work. We needed to coordinate organ transport from several states away while following pandemic precautions. We called the patient and got him in to get ready for surgery right away.”

What were things like in the operating room?

“There was a lot of anticipation in the air. The team was working hard to coordinate all their time-sensitive tasks so that we were in a position to hit the ground running the minute the organ arrived.

“A large team was congregating in the operating room, helping prepare the donor organ and assisting with the surgery led by Drs. Gary Xiao and Stephen Guy. Since we had just turned on Phoenix, we also had “super users” who had helped with training standing by on the phone in case we had questions.

“Seeing the kidney start working with excellent function was extremely gratifying for all of us who had been working toward this moment.”

What were some of the factors that made this transplant a success?

“First, the people. It takes a village to complete a successful transplant and coordinate the patient’s care. This transplant involved around fifty people, including providers, administrators, financial coordinators, pharmacists, and cardiologists, and everyone had to work together leading up to the procedure. We also had our super users and Epic staff nearby to help with the software.

“Second, preparation. The go-live came at a perfect time because the transplant program is new at Tower Health, so we were able to put a lot of thought into our processes and how we could best coordinate together. That planning complemented all the planning and coordination that had gone into this patient’s preparations for surgery, so we were ready when the opportunity came.

“The coordination between the whole care team as we monitor and support our patients—before surgery, during the operation, and after surgery—is the key to providing excellent care.”

For more information on Tower Health’s transplant program, contact Dr. David Reich at David.Reich@towerhealth.org.