Monday, March 27, 2006

Joel Cooper: “Father of Lung Transplant"

It saddened me to read that one of my all time heroes, Dr. Joel Cooper, was forced to retire from Washington University Medical School in St. Louis, MO because of a mandatory retirement age of 65. You can read about it in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article that indicates Dr. Cooper is suing for age discrimination.

Dr. Cooper broke the lung transplant barrier when he perfomed the first successful lung transplant in the world at Toronto General Hospital. On November 7, 1983, Tom Hall received a single-lung transplant that opened the door for people like me to have a second chance at life.

They say that when a door closes another opens and I was pleased to learn that Dr. Cooper has accepted a position as Chief of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania Health Sciences.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis

One of the major reasons many of us require lung transplants to survive is due to Pulmonary Fibrosis, especially Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) which those of us who have it know is a debilitating disease. The Coalition For Pulmonary Fibrosis is an excellent resource for both patients and healthcare professionals. Here's an excerpt from their web site:

"About the Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis
The Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis (CPF) is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, founded in 2001 to further education, patient support and research efforts for pulmonary fibrosis, specifically idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). The CPF is governed by the nation's leading pulmonologists, individuals affected by pulmonary fibrosis, medical research professionals and advocacy organizations. With more than 9,500 members nationwide, the CPF is the largest nonprofit organization in the country specifically dedicated to helping those with IPF."

This site is also an excellent resource for the latest news, such as survival rates and research updates. Well worth visiting.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Patient Has Wrong Kidney Removed

The patient from Scotland whose healthy kidney was removed by mistake in a hospital blunder spoke about it for the first time March 19th in an interview with The Sunday Mail (U.K.). Read the article

A United States urologist comments on this at the Associates in Urology web site Wrong kidney removed

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Len Geiger Story

Len Geiger's story is another wonderful example of how organ transplant recipients can lead a full, active life. Following the publication of the Advance Magazine article on Living After a Lung Transplant, I received the following email from Len:


I read the Advance article on you and your transplant last night. You did a great job explaining what it's like post transplant. Every day is a blessing. The work you do raising awareness for organ and tissue donation is a blessing for untold numbers of others as well.

I'll be celebrating my 4th anniversary of my bilateral lung transplant (due to Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency) on May 27th. Since that time I've met the family of my donor, married a wonderful woman, and fathered my first child - a beautiful little girl - who turned 5 weeks this past Saturday.
Yes, every single day is a blessing.

Let's stay in touch,

-Len Geiger
Savannah, Georgia

Len's story as told above is an inspiration to all of us who have received organ transplants, but there's a lot more to tell about Len's life after his transplant. Since his double-lung transplant in 2002 Len has met his donor family and ran in marathon races alongside his donor's father and the surgeon who performed his lung transplant. His story was told in American Profile magazine. The accompanying photo of Len is that of a conditioned athlete and you will be truly inspired by the Len Geiger story. I know that I was.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Youth Outreach at Brock University

Surveys indicate that large numbers of students hold misconceptions about organ and tissue donation, especially with regard to religious issues. Trillium Gift of Life Network here in Ontario, Canada (TGLN) has initiated a Youth Outreach Program and made it a priority under the leadership of TGLN educator Brian Kellow. Programs are being planned for students at many universities and colleges throughout the province.

Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario was the setting for one of these sessions Thursday, March 16th. I was privileged to have an opportunity to tell my lung transplant story and to say how thankful I am for being given a "second chance" at life, thanks to the kindness of my donor and his or her family. Nancy Glover, TGLN Community Organ & Tissue Donation Coordinator gave a comprehensive overview of organ and tissue donation, which was well received by these mostly pre-med students.

I have to say that this was one of the better venues I've spoken at. About 30 students came for the late afternoon seminar and they were extremely attentive and interested in the subject. If this group is any indication of our student body in general it certainly bodes well for future efforts to spread the organ and tissue donation message.

During the social time after the meeting, most of the students remained to ask questions and chat with myself, Nancy and Brian Kellow and I can't say enough about their friendliness and politeness. I came away extremely impressed and with a good feeling about the state of our educational system.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Irish Pubs Under Smoke-free Law in Ireland Show 91% Lower Indoor Air Pollution Than 'Irish Pubs' in Cities Around the World

This news release from the Harvard School of Public Health about air quality in Irish Pubs where smoking is permitted, as well as the much improved air quality in pubs where smoking is banned, will be of special interest to those of us with respiratory problems who must avoid breathing secondhand smoke. This excerpt from the press release stresses the dangers:
Secondhand smoke exposure remains a major public health concern that is entirely preventable. Secondhand smoke is a recognized human carcinogen containing at least 250 chemicals that are known to be toxic or carcinogenic, and is responsible for an estimated 3,000 lung cancer deaths annually in the U.S. among people who have never smoked as well as more than 25,000 deaths annually from coronary heart disease in never smokers, plus respiratory infections, asthma, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other illnesses in children. Dangers of secondhand smoke exposure are highest among restaurant and bar workers whose workplaces typically are not regulated for air quality and who have some of the highest lung cancer rates of any occupation.

Here in Ontario, Canada a law comes into effect at the end of May, 2006 that bans smoking in all enclosed workplaces and public spaces, including bars, restaurants, bingo halls and private clubs such as legion halls. A similar ban has been in effect since 2000 in the Waterloo Region of Ontario where I live and it's wonderful not to be concerned about breathing smoke when going out.

For immediate release: Thursday, March 16, 2006
Boston, MA - A survey of air pollution levels in "Irish pubs" around the world has found that indoor air pollution in authentic Irish pubs in Ireland, where a smoke-free law has been in effect for two years, is 91 percent lower than in "Irish pubs" located in other countries and cities where smoke-free laws do not apply. Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), Roswell Park Cancer Institute and health authorities in Ireland collaborated on the project that assessed air samples from 128 "Irish pubs" in 15 countries in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia.

In March 2004, the Republic of Ireland became the first country to have a nationwide ban on indoor smoking in all public spaces -- including restaurants and pubs. The policy provides an opportunity to assess the effectiveness of comprehensive smoke-free laws by comparing Irish indoor public spaces to public spaces elsewhere. Despite claims that the law could have a negative economic impact, Ireland has seen no decline in business at pubs and restaurants and, in fact, business in that sector has improved according to the Central Statistics Office (Ireland) ( news release

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Stanford/Packard Study Finds Potential New Treatment for Cystic Fibrosis

Approximately 16 percent of all lung transplants are due to cystic fibrosis and any hope for preserving lung function in cystic fibrosis patients is always welcome news that we are pleased to report.

3/14/06 News Release
A compound that has shown promise in combating some chronic inflammatory diseases may be useful in preserving lung function in cystic fibrosis patients, say researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. The researchers have recently completed a Phase 1 clinical trial of the compound and have begun a Phase 2 clinical trial to test its efficacy in a larger number of patients.

“These people basically destroy their lungs through ongoing inflammation and infection,” said research associate Rabindra Tirouvanziam, PhD, the first author of the study. “We’re optimistic that, with further research, we may be able to inhibit this process.” The findings were published in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on March 13.

Cystic fibrosis is the most common disease caused by a recessive gene in Caucasians; about one in 2,500 infants are affected. Although the disorder was formerly fatal in childhood, the expected lifespan of sufferers has been increasing steadily with the advent of new treatments. But the attendant lung inflammation and scarring still results in the loss of three to four percent of lung function every year... full news release

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Double Transplants May Offer One Solution to Short Supply of Donated Kidneys

Medications post organ transplant can cause kidney complications that lead to the need for a kidney transplant in some cases, and this study from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center will be of interest to patients on the waiting list for a kidney. The press release also offers a good explanation of how kidney transplants are performed.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Transplanting a pair of kidneys with limited function into one patient can be just as successful as the standard procedure in which a patient receives a single kidney, according to new research at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

“Performing double transplants using kidneys that would otherwise be discarded may be one viable solution to the growing shortage of organs for transplantation,” said Robert Stratta, M.D., co-author of a study being presented today at a meeting of the Central Surgical Association in Louisville, Ky.

During the 45-month study period, 19 patients underwent double transplants using organs from deceased donors that had been turned down by other centers because of limited function. The kidneys had marginal filtering capacity either because they were very small – from children – or they were from older adults who had begun to lose some kidney function...full press release.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Special request

I'm posting this request received today from Jim MacKenzie. (You can send a message to Jim's email)

Hi Merv. My name is Jim MacKenzie. My wife Elizabeth had a double lung transplant June 25th, 2004. Today she's lying in hospital with lung rejection. It's just a matter of days. It's going on 5 weeks when she was admitted and going down hill fast. She can't eat or drink and they stopped all rejection medication. So I was wondering if you could get your contacts to pray for her. Thank you. Jim.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Magazine article - Living after a lung transplant

Below are links to the cover story in the March 6th issue of Advance for Respiratory Care Practitioners* that highlights a talk on living after a lung transplant given by a panel representing the Toronto General Hospital lung transplant program. The editors wanted to show that an active life is very possible after a lung transplant and I fortunately was able to be photographed enjoying my love of cross-country skiing, even with one lung.
*This is a U.S. magazine with the highest readership in the country in its category.

View the Cover photo - To read the article enter the title LIVING AFTER A LUNG TRANSPLANT in the search box to the left of the photo.

The venue was CHEST 2005, the annual convention of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP). It was held last fall in Montreal and about 5,000 attendees were registered. (Of course not all attended our symposium!).

Our panel included Dr. Lianne Singer, medical director, Toronto Lung Transplant Program, Tara Bolden, clinical coordinator of Toronto General's Transplant Psychiatry Multi-Organ Transplant program and me. Merv.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Pillows - a hotbed of fungal spores

Life-threatening Aspergillua pneumonia and sinusitis is a problem for immuno-compromised transplant patients and this news release from the University of Manchester suggests that the type of pillows used outside the hospital may be a hotbed of fungi spores that cause the disease. Read on.

MANCHESTER - Fungal Research Trust

Researchers at The University of Manchester, funded by the Fungal Research Trust, have discovered millions of fungal spores literally right under our noses; in our pillows. Aspergillus fumigatus, the species most commonly found in the pillows, is most likely to cause disease; and the resulting condition Aspergillosis has become the leading infectious cause of death in leukaemia and bone marrow transplant patients. Fungi also exacerbate asthma in adults.

Aspergillus is a very common fungus, carried in the air as well as being found in cellars, household plant pots, compost, computers and ground pepper and spices.

Invasive Aspergillosis occurs mainly in the lungs and sinuses,
although it can spread to other organs such as the brain, and is becoming increasingly common across other patient groups. It is very difficult to treat, and as many as 1 in 25 patients who die in modern European teaching hospitals have the disease.

Immuno-compromised patients such as transplantation, AIDS and
steroid treatment patients are also frequently affected with life-threatening Aspergillus pneumonia and sinusitis. Fortunately, hospital pillows have plastic covers and so are unlikely to cause problems, but patients being discharged home - where pillows may be old and fungus-infected - could be at risk of infection...Full press release

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Heart transplant raffle nets more than $17,000!

Raffle team - click for larger picture
The Valentine's Day raffle completely sold out of tickets February 14th well before the 1:30 p.m. draw. The heart transplant patient's group, HeartLinks, deserve a round of applause for the great job they did in selling raffle tickets and there was also tremendous response to the reminder about last minute ticket sales. More than 30 lucky winner's names were drawn from among the 12,000 tickets sold.*

HeartLinks gives their thanks and appreciation for the wonderful support from everyone who purchased tickets and donated prizes for this worthwhile cause. All proceeds from the more than $17,000 raised will be donated for heart transplant research at Toronto General Hospital.

*email me for a list of winners.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Trillium Gift of Life Network is moving to increase organ and tissue donation in Ontario

As a lung transplant recipient, it was my pleasure to give a talk on my pre and post transplant experiences to this group attending an orientation session for new staff. Included are in-hospital Clinical Coordinators and TGLN support staff. The coordinators will be available to assist on-site at the majority of hospitals in the Province of Ontario as Trillium Gift of Life Network adds to its clinical support team of Community Hospital Donation Coordinators. Initially situated in Ontario’s neurotrauma hospitals, TGLN’s In-Hospital Donation Coordinators and their on-call teams are being located in hospitals throughout the Province of Ontario to be available to assist with organ and tissue donation cases. With the implementation of the new system for organ and tissue donation in January, 2006 (RNR) TGLN has been rapidly expanding by hiring hospital coordinators and support staff to administer the program. Ontario's new system is called Routine Notification and Request (RNR) and is designed to maximize organ and tissue donation. It is a provision of the TGLN Act passed in 2000, with the implementation of the RNR program this year (2006).

Under RNR guidelines, designated facilities report to TGLN when a patient has died or death is expected by reason of disease or illness. Once eligibility has been determined, the hospital then approaches the patient or the patients' family to discuss donation options.

It's great to see the progressive steps being taken by Trillium Gift of Life Network to increase the rate of organ and tissue donation in the Province of Ontario. Currently our rate of donation in the province is about 13 donors per million population, however it is anticipated this will increase dramatically with the implementation of the new RNR program. As a note of interest, the Philadelphia area introduced a similar program several years ago and now enjoys the highest rate of organ and tissue donation in North America, 33.1 donors per million.

Please go to my photo gallery for more pictures taken at orientation sessions that I attended. This will give you an idea of how active Trillium Gift of Life Network has been in putting the staff in place to manage this new organ and tissue donation initiative: TGLN Photos