20 Dec Transplant education brings hope to standing room only crowd


Studies have shown that for many patients with kidney failure, a transplant provides not just longevity that may be unattainable on dialysis, but also the best quality of life. Yet, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) reports that as of Dec. 16, 2016 there are 99,066 people waiting for a kidney transplant. The Living Kidney Donors Network shares that the average wait time for a deceased kidney donor can average 5 – 10 years.

With the knowledge that transplantation is an ideal, yet limited, treatment option, how do patients take advantage of this method? It starts with a commitment to increasing the transplant rate. In June, DCI committed to quadrupling the current transplant rate for patients with kidney disease. DCI’s chronic kidney disease program, REACH Kidney Care, encouraged care coordinators around the country to seek additional opportunities to provide patients with transplant resources.

In Omaha, Janet Thomsen, RN, REACH Kidney Care CKD Coordinator, found the Nebraska Medicine Kidney/Pancreas transplant team willing to join efforts.

“When I described to the team the goals of REACH Kidney Care and DCI’s commitment to increasing kidney transplantation across the U.S., without hesitation, Nebraska Medicine Transplant suggested an educational event for REACH participants and their friends and family,” shared Janet. “We quickly scheduled a space at the Nebraska Medicine Campus that could accommodate up to 45 patients and guests.”

The partnership required collaboration among several individuals, including: Victoria Hunter, RN, Kidney/Pancreas Transplant Manager; Gina Rau, RN, Living Donor Coordinator; Stephanie Lewis, Physician Outreach Liaison; and Clifford Miles, MD, Director of Kidney/Pancreas Transplant at Nebraska Medicine.

With 45 seats available, Janet was determined to fill each one. She identified 46 REACH participants with a glomerular filtration rate (GFR) below 30, meaning they were in the later stages of kidney disease and a higher risk for kidney failure. She mailed invitations to each person emphasizing the unique opportunity for transplant education.

Responses arrived quickly upon receipt of the invitations. When the responses slowed, Janet phoned patients who had yet to respond. Every patient that had expressed interest in attending the education class received a telephone call reminder from Janet the day before the event.

On December 6, the REACH/Nebraska Medicine: An Evening of Transplant presentation took place. Janet arrived early to find there were already 11 REACH patients and family members in the designated meeting room.

“I thought to myself, ‘this thing might just be good!’” Janet reflected. “Suddenly, traffic into the room was non-stop. When the presentation began, I could hardly believe it. I counted 45 attendees, including 20 patients and 25 friends or family. Every patient that had received their reminder phone call was there. It was standing room only.”

The lead presenter was Cliff Miles, MD, Director of K/P Transplant. Other presenters included Victoria Hunter, RN, K/P Transplant Manager and Scott Westphal, MD, Transplant Nephrologist. Tiffany Spethman, RN, Transplant/Vascular Nurse was also on hand to answer questions.

“The presenters did an outstanding job,” Janet said. “The patients and their family members asked many insightful questions, and the transplant team remained available until after the last question was answered.”

Due to the significant response to the program, Nebraska Medicine offered to host the educational event for REACH participants on a quarterly basis.

“The first collaboration program between REACH and the Nebraska Medicine Kidney Transplant program was an overwhelming success. It was a great privilege to work with Janet on the project. She shares our ‘patient first’ passion,” said Victoria Hunter, RN, K/P Transplant Manager. “The transplant team looks forward to working with REACH and Janet to educate people about transplant opportunities in the future.”

The organizers of the event wanted the attendees to receive meaningful information that would impact their lives. Janet reported that one attendee leaving the event gave her a gentle hug. The attendee said, “Thank you so much for all you’ve done for me, and thank you for encouraging me to come to this tonight.  You gave me hope.”

It is the hope for a better future and the knowledge on how to achieve it that has the power to change a patient’s life.  With providers working toward this goal, patients are sure to benefit.