MedStar Georgetown University Hospital acquires first and only robotic navigation system for spine surgery in Washington, D.C., region

WASHINGTON — MedStar Georgetown University Hospital Center for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery continues its commitment to delivering leading-edge care by acquiring a unique robotic guidance and navigation system that improves surgical accuracy and speeds recovery time for patients who undergo spine surgery. Globus ExcelsiusGPS is the first and only spine robot of its kind in the world and complements the hospital’s advanced technological capabilities for minimally invasive neurosurgery.

There have been tremendous advances in spinal surgery with the use of less invasive techniques and new technologies over the past 10 years.  The ExcelsiusGPS’ robotic guidance, navigation and imaging compatibility provides unique benefits for patients and surgeons.

The navigation system in the ExcelsiusGPS, is similar to what is found in a smart phone or car. Like mobile GPS, it provides real-time visualization of the instruments and screws with relation to the patient’s unique “map”, created from preoperative images, and adjusts accordingly if the patient moves. Merging preoperative CT images of the patient with just a few X-rays taken during surgery allows surgeons to pin point a location on the spine and instruct the robot to aim for the exact location.  The robotic guidance ensures surgical instruments are positioned in the correct trajectory, so implants are precisely placed with the robot’s rigid arm. The imaging systems also provide surgeons with the best visualization during surgery eliminates the need for the surgeon to look back and forth between the patient and a separate x-ray image.

“We have built a very strong reputation in spine surgery, particularly in minimally invasive spinal surgery,” said Dr. Faheem Sandhu, director of Spine Surgery at MedStar Georgetown. “In the past, spinal surgery relied heavily on X-rays. This new robot not only helps with more precise placement of implants, it also replaces the need for multiple X-rays during surgery reducing the patient’s and surgeon’s exposure to radiation. 

 “A spine robot with a navigation system is a game changer because it allows for the effortless placement of spinal implants with great precision,” said Dr. Jean-Marc Voyadzis, co-director of the Center for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. “The ability to place each implant with precise accuracy through even smaller incisions avoiding broad exposure of the spine and long scars result in patients recovering faster, having less postoperative pain and reduced risk of infection or the need for blood transfusions.”

John Buie, had spine surgeries before coming to MedStar Georgetown for treatment of disk degeneration in his L4 and L5. “I was in quite a bit of pain,’ Buie said. “This robotic surgery really helped me recover faster than I did with my previous two surgeries.  I was back to normal in about 3 weeks.”

The neurosurgeons at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital are leading specialist who work across disciples to provide patients with exceptional leading-edge care. The department of Neurosurgery includes a Joint Commission designated Primary Stroke Center with a 24hour emergency stroke team, the Neurosurgery Multidisciplinary Spine Center offering minimally invasive spine surgery, a Comprehensive Epilepsy Center offering epilepsy surgery an Interventional Neuroradiology Department that research new treatment and diagnostic methods, a Specialized Acoustic Neuroma and Skull Base Tumor Center and a Comprehensive Pediatric Neurosurgery Program.

About MedStar Georgetown University Hospital is a not-for-profit, acute-care teaching and research hospital licensed for 609 beds located in Northwest Washington, D.C. Founded in the Jesuit principle of cura personalis, caring for the whole person, MedStar Georgetown is committed to offering a variety of innovative diagnostic and treatment options within a trusting and compassionate environment.  MedStar Georgetown’s centers of excellence include neurosciences, transplant, cancer and gastroenterology. Along with Magnet® nurses, internationally recognized physicians, advanced research and cutting-edge technologies, MedStar Georgetown’s healthcare professionals have a reputation for medical excellence and leadership.

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MedStar Georgetown University Hospital named one of the Best Maternity Care Hospitals in the U.S.

WASHINGTON —MedStar Georgetown University Hospital has been nationally recognized as one of the Best Maternity Care Hospitals in the United States by Newsweek and The Leapfrog Group; an independent non-profit organization that monitors healthcare organizations in the U.S.  The list recognizes facilities that have excellence in providing care to mothers, newborns and their families as verified by the 2019 Leapfrog Hospital Survey.

“We are honored to be recognized for our commitment to excellence in women’s health and maternity care,” Dr. Helain J. Landy, Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at MedStar Georgetown said. “It represents a strong testament to the outstanding contributions of everyone associated with the care of our patients and their babies, including physicians and nurses from Ob/Gyn, Pediatrics and Neonatology, Anesthesiology, as well as the outstanding administrative support which represents the foundation of our efforts,” she noted. “This designation also validates our dedicated efforts to apply evidence-based medicine and the philosophy of cura personalis (care of the whole person) for mothers and their infants.” 

The evidence-based, nationally standardized metrics met for this distinction include: 

  • Low early elective delivery dates (hospitals effort to limit births prior to 39 weeks of gestation without medical necessity)
  • Lower rates of cesarean sections for first time mothers
  • Low episiotomy rates
  • High rates of newborn screenings for jaundice prior to hospital discharge
  • High rates of prevention techniques to prevent blood clots of mothers delivering via C-Section

MedStar Georgetown University Hospital was among an elite group of hospitals from across the country that passed these standards of excellence to earn this recognition and is the only Hospital in the District of Columbia to earn this ranking. 

About MedStar Georgetown University Hospital is a not-for-profit, acute-care teaching and research hospital licensed for 609 beds located in Northwest Washington, D.C. Founded in the Jesuit principle of cura personalis, caring for the whole person, MedStar Georgetown is committed to offering a variety of innovative diagnostic and treatment options within a trusting and compassionate environment.  MedStar Georgetown’s centers of excellence include neurosciences, transplant, cancer and gastroenterology. Along with Magnet® nurses, internationally recognized physicians, advanced research and cutting-edge technologies, MedStar Georgetown’s healthcare professionals have a reputation for medical excellence and leadership.

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Nicole Vowell
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Inflammasome activation linked to T-cell dysregulation and poor outcomes in comorbid COVID-19 patients, according to MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute led study

WASHINGTON –A study led by the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute (MGTI) and published today in the Journal of Hepatology shows that inflammation, resulting from heightened inflammasome activity, leads to immune dysregulation and ultimately severe disease for comorbid patients with COVID-19.

Early publicized risk profiles related to COVID-19 warned patients with inflammatory comorbidities including: obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease were at increased risk of morbidity and mortality due to coronavirus. Included in these populations are patients with liver disease and liver transplant recipients, who are likely to have a co-occurrence of comorbid illnesses.

The study’s lead authors, Dr. Alexander Kroemer, transplant surgeon and MGTI scientific director, Dr. Khalid Khan, medical director of the Islet Cell Transplant Program and Dr. Thomas Fishbein, executive director of MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute, recognized early on that transplant candidates and recipients were especially vulnerable populations when it came to COVID-19 and decided to better understand how to provide specialized care and treatment.

“Looking into the clinical courses and immune responses of our COVID-19 patients led us to explore the link between immune dysfunction and inflammatory comorbidities,” said, Dr. Kroemer. “Our preliminary data points to that link. The inflammasome and resulting inflammatory cell death, which may contribute to low lymphocyte and T-cell counts, has also been seen in other viral diseases such as HIV.”

The MGTI study, in collaboration with Amerimmune, a CLIA-certified laboratory, and SUNY Downstate Medical Center, examined the potentially critical role of the inflammasome in COVID-19 patient outcomes. The inflammasome, an intracellular protein complex, monitors and mediates the body’s inflammatory responses to injury or illness. Upon activation, it can induce a form of highly inflammatory cell death called pyroptosis which has two implications. First, it leads to release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, potentially contributing to the so-called cytokine storms that have been reported in severe cases of COVID-19. Second, it can drive immune dysfunction via T-cell and lymphocyte depletion, which prevents the adaptive immune system from mounting an effective antiviral immune response. Viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, which can further activate the inflammasome, could exacerbate and accelerate this detrimental immune response in patients who already have chronic activation.

The study is based on eight COVID-19 liver patients from the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute (MGTI), and eight matched COVID-19 non-liver patient controls from SUNY Downstate Medical Center (SUNY). The eight control patients from SUNY were matched based on age, gender, race, comorbidities, and COVID-19 outcome during the same time period.

About MedStar Georgetown University Hospital is a not-for-profit, acute-care teaching and research hospital licensed for 609 beds located in Northwest Washington, D.C. Founded in the Jesuit principle of cura personalis, caring for the whole person, MedStar Georgetown is committed to offering a variety of innovative diagnostic and treatment options within a trusting and compassionate environment.  MedStar Georgetown’s centers of excellence include neurosciences, transplant, cancer and gastroenterology. Along with Magnet® nurses, internationally recognized physicians, advanced research and cutting-edge technologies, MedStar Georgetown’s healthcare professionals have a reputation for medical excellence and leadership.

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MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute Implemented New Transplant Protocol and Performed More Kidney Transplants than any Other Hospital in U.S. During COVID-19 Pandemic.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute performed more kidney transplants than any other hospital in the U.S., and successfully safeguarded all its transplant recipients and living organ donors, from contracting COVID-19.

From March to May MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute performed 115 organ transplants – 90 of which were kidney transplants with 23 of them from living donors. This record number is nearly equal to the total number of transplants performed by all regional hospitals combined. bar graph of kidney transplants in the Washington, D.C. sourced by UNOS.org

In collaboration with MedStar Georgetown’s infectious disease team and the coordinated efforts across the MedStar Health System, the Transplant Institute took early and aggressive measures to implement the highest safety protocols to safeguard the health and wellness of vulnerable transplant recipients and living donors during the unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Patients with organ failure are among the most vulnerable populations, and life-saving transplants are critical. While caring for patients with COVID-19 was an urgent mission, we could not abandon equally critical transplant patients. We surveyed best practices across the nation, evaluated which centers were surviving and which were not, and developed a systematic approach that was individualized for us. Working quickly and involving everyone from the top of the organization down lead to our success," Executive Director of the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute, Dr. Thomas Fishbein, said. 

Many transplant programs around the country temporarily halted or significantly reduced the number of transplants they performed during this time. “It’s easy to say no,” said Dr. Matthew Cooper, director of Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation and a Professor of Surgery at Georgetown University School of Medicine, said. “We are fortunate that with the hard work of the Institute, the administration here at MedStar Georgetown, and the overall MedStar Health system, we were able to say yes to keeping the open sign up.” 

The enhanced safety and infection prevention protocol included: priority COVID-19 testing for transplant recipients to rule out recipients who had the virus before they were transplanted, COVID-19-free units in the hospital to minimize infection risk for transplant patients, use of telehealth to reduce hospital visits for pre-screenings and post-transplant management and deploying travel nurses to patient homes for laboratory testing. These quick-actions reduced the risk of exposure before, during, and after transplant surgery.  

A significant number of transplant patients traveled from various parts of the country for their life-saving care at MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute. 

MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute is headquartered at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and provides life-restoring care to patients with end-stage organ failure. As one of the highest volume transplant programs in the United States, the Institute has performed more than 7,598 liver, kidney, pancreas, small bowel, colon, stomach, and multi-organ transplants to date. Additionally, the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute offers outpatient kidney evaluations at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center, MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center, and other locations in Maryland and Virginia.

About MedStar Georgetown University Hospital is a not-for-profit, acute-care teaching and research hospital licensed for 609 beds located in Northwest Washington, D.C. Founded in the Jesuit principle of cura personalis, caring for the whole person, MedStar Georgetown is committed to offering a variety of innovative diagnostic and treatment options within a trusting and compassionate environment. MedStar Georgetown’s centers of excellence include neurosciences, transplant, cancer, and gastroenterology. Along with Magnet® nurses, internationally recognized physicians, advanced research, and cutting-edge technologies, MedStar Georgetown’s healthcare professionals have a reputation for medical excellence and leadership.

 

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Debbie Asrate
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MedStar Georgetown University Hospital receives 5th Beacon Award for Excellence from American Association of Critical-Care Nurses

Washington, D.C. – The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) has awarded MedStar Georgetown University Hospital with a Silver Beacon Award for excellence making it the only hospital in the Washington Metropolitan Area and one of approximately 21 hospitals in the country with five or more Beacon Award units. This award recognizes an inpatient unit’s capacity to work as a team to provide the highest level of care to critically ill patients.

This is the fifth Beacon Award MedStar Georgetown Magnet® nurses have won. This year’s honoree, the Thoracic Intermediate Care Unit (IMC), joins the hospital’s Medical Intensive Care Unit, Surgical Intensive Care Unit, and two other IMCs in being recognized for showcasing exceptional patient care and a healthy work environment.

To achieve the Silver Beacon Award for Excellence, hospital inpatient care units must demonstrate successful improvements in patient outcomes and align practices with the AACN’s rigorous standards. The designation, good for three years, is based on the following evidence-based criteria:

  • Leadership Structures and Systems
  • Appropriate Staffing and Staff Engagement
  • Effective Communication, Knowledge Management, Learning and Development
  • Evidence-Based Practice and Processes
  • Outcome Measurement

“I want to congratulate our thoracic intermediate care unit for their outstanding commitment to professional nursing practice, by promoting patient safety in everything they do, and achieving the highest standards of quality care for our patients,” said MedStar Georgetown University Hospital President Mike Sachtleben. “These awards are a well-deserved recognition of the teamwork that occurs on our units.”

About MedStar Georgetown University Hospital is a not-for-profit, acute-care teaching and research hospital licensed for 609 beds located in Northwest Washington, D.C. Founded in the Jesuit principle of cura personalis, caring for the whole person, MedStar Georgetown is committed to offering a variety of innovative diagnostic and treatment options within a trusting and compassionate environment.  MedStar Georgetown’s centers of excellence include neurosciences, transplant, cancer and gastroenterology. Along with Magnet® nurses, internationally recognized physicians, advanced research and cutting-edge technologies, MedStar Georgetown’s healthcare professionals have a reputation for medical excellence and leadership.

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Debbie Asrate
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Nicole Vowell
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Study shows Retzius-sparing robotic prostatectomy at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital improves patient quality of life without compromising cancer control

Washington, D.C. — Retzius-sparing robotic prostatectomy, an innovative surgical approach to treat men with prostate cancer, has shown to significantly reduce the risk of urinary incontinence, or urine leakage, and also improve patient’s quality of life without compromising oncological outcomes, according to a new study led by Keith Kowalczyk, M.D., director, Urologic Oncology at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital. Only the 3rd of its kind in the United States, this study examined data gathered from 140 radical prostatectomies performed by Dr. Kowalczyk over a 4-year period at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

 Keith Kowalczyk, MD with DaVinci Xi Dual Console RobotThe findings show that, in comparison to standard robotic prostatectomy, men undergoing Retzius-sparing robotic prostatectomy had higher rates of continence (98% vs. 81%), achieved continence earlier (49 vs. 64 days), and demonstrated 80% lower risk of suffering from incontinence one year following surgery.  Additionally, men undergoing Retzius-sparing prostatectomy had significantly better overall quality of life one year following surgery.

Urinary incontinence and compromised quality of life following a radical prostatectomy has been a barrier to seeking appropriate care for some prostate cancer patients. “We tend to underestimate the effect that even mild urine leakage may have on patient’s quality of life and well-being following prostatectomy. That is why I decided to learn this new technique, even though it is technically very challenging.  I am glad that I did because I have seen a remarkable improvement in outcomes for my patients as seen in this study,” Dr. Kowalczyk said.

Following robotic prostatectomy, most patients were able to leave the hospital less than 24 hours after surgery and resume routine activities in 1–2 weeks. Additionally, patients undergoing Robotic surgery tend to have less pain and discomfort following the surgery, translating to a minimal need for pain medications during hospitalization and no need for narcotic pain medications at home. Sean Hawkins, a patient who underwent the surgery said, “After about 3 weeks I regained all of my functions and ended up going back to work earlier than I expected, I got my life back totally.”

 “Robotic surgery allows for a much more precise surgery with much easier recovery and less blood loss for the patient,” said Dr. Kowalczyk. “With Retzius-sparing robotic prostatectomy, the whole surgery is done in a very small space in the pelvis which is not accessible during traditional open surgery.  This allows us to leave as much as the normal pelvic anatomy intact as possible without causing surrounding damage, which is most likely what leads to these improved outcomes.”

Medstar Georgetown University Hospital acquired the DaVinci Xi Dual Console robot in February 2020, and Dr. Kowalczyk has started performing the surgeries on this platform. The state-of-the-art surgical system offers a minimally-invasive option for patients who require a prostatectomy. The new technology uses fine instrumentation, 3-D visuals, increased magnification, and only requires a less than ½ inch incision.  In addition, the DaVanci Xi platform allows improved visualization and improved movement of instrumentation. “Using the Xi platform has made this surgery much easier for me, for sure.” said Dr. Kowalczyk.

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Debbie Asrate
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Nicole Vowell
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MedStar Georgetown University Hospital Division of Community Pediatrics Responds to Families in Need During COVID-19 Pandemic

WASHINGTON – The Division of Community Pediatrics, committed to delivering quality clinical services and programming to the most vulnerable children and families in Washington, D.C., amplified its services to help families experiencing hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Since March 16, MedStar Georgetown’s Community Pediatrics team has provided families with navigation services, including social and legal support, to connect families with essential resources. The team also delivered 10,000 meals, 150 care packages and grocery store gift cards to patient families.

“We quickly recognized the disproportionate impact this pandemic has on our families' ability to access food and basic supplies, as well as heightened social, educational and mental health needs,” says Dr. Janine Rethy, division chief of Community Pediatrics. “We urgently redirected significant efforts and resources to identify and meet those needs.”

Throughout the pandemic, the Division of Community Pediatrics has continued to meet the needs of patients with in-person visits for urgent care and well child-care, prioritizing those children who need vaccinations. The team also expanded their scope of services to provide scheduled secure telehealth visits for children with special healthcare needs, such as asthma, ADHD and behavioral health concerns.

The Division of Community Pediatrics also expanded its family navigation and care coordination services for children and adolescents with complex health and social service needs, boosted mental health support, and provided intensive support to connect community and public benefits resources—including referrals to legal services with its medical-legal partner, Health Justice Alliance.

Additionally, the team distributed weekly mental health videos to partnering schools that focused on dealing with grief and anxiety during the pandemic, the videos have been incorporated into distance learning curriculums.

The Ronald McDonald Care Mobile® Focused on FITNESS program has also created and disseminated educational resources and videos on mindfulness and at-home yoga; these materials have too been shared with partnering schools to be incorporated into distance learning courses.

“We will not waver in our commitment to provide care and support for our patients as the disparities heightened by this pandemic continue to affect our community,” Dr. Rethy said. “We are grateful for the generosity of our community members and philanthropic partners such has Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Washington, DC®, CVS Health, Share Our Strength, Power of 10, and the individual donors in our community who have helped make our outreach possible.”

For 27 years the Division of Community Pediatrics at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital has devoted itself to providing access to evidence-based, comprehensive, coordinated health care to children who need it most throughout the Washington, D,C. area.  Programs include the KID Mobile Medical Clinic/Ronald McDonald Care Mobile®, the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile® Focused on FITNESS program, and two school-based health centers at DC Public Schools: Theodore Roosevelt High School and Anacostia High School.

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Debbie Asrate
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Nicole Vowell
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MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, first in Washington Metropolitan Area to offer promising investigational treatment for COVID-19

WASHINGTON — MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, the first hospital in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area to offer convalescent plasma therapy, has discharged its first patient who received the investigational treatment.

While there is no proven treatment for this virus, researchers are optimistic that the antibodies in convalescent plasma, a component of blood, collected from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19, can lead to more positive outcomes.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that a patient’s ability to recover is due, in part, to the existence of antibodies in blood that are capable of fighting viruses that cause illness. While use of convalescent plasma for COVID-19 was just recently approved by the FDA for clinical trials and expanded clinical use, the use of convalescent plasma has been successful in the past for treating diseases like hepatitis B, influenza and Ebola.

Patrick Bright, the first patient to receive convalescent plasma at MedStar Georgetown was discharged on May 2 after spending 3 weeks in the hospital. Before receiving the convalescent plasma, Bright was in the ICU where doctors told him and his family that they were not optimistic about his recovery from acute COVID-19 infection.

Despite the bleak prognosis, Bright was determined to fight. He recalls lying in his hospital bed, holding his fist up like a boxer and telling his family, who were on a video call, “I’m a fighter. I’m not going anywhere.” Today he credits his recovery to getting convalescent plasma. “I was on a ventilator for five days and I started turning around after getting the convalescent plasma. My doctors told me the plasma therapy was a crucial part of my recovery.”

MedStar Georgetown has treated more than 30 COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma and is encouraging more people to donate.  Anyone who has recovered from COVID-19 and has been symptom free for 14 days can be considered to donate plasma and help save the lives of severely ill patients like Patrick Bright.

Bright and his wife, who also had COVID-19, are eager to donate their plasma in the future to help other people recover.

Interested donors who meet the outlined criteria should email their name and phone number to [email protected]  for pre-screening and directions on where to donate.  Your single plasma donation may be used to treat up to three other COVID-19 infected patients who need your help.

See WJLA's coverage here.

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Debbie Asrate
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Vacation Donation: Maryland Educator Receives Kidney Thanks to New Colleague’s Generous Gift

“I felt like the clock was ticking against me.”

Gary Simmons, of Glen Burnie, MD, was doing everything he could to maintain his healthy lifestyle while battling kidney failure caused by diabetes. He ate right, worked out three times a week, rode his bike over 30 miles every weekend, and just started a new job with the special education staff at Lindale Middle School in Linthicum, MD. Despite his best efforts, Simmons could tell that his condition was worsening late last year.

“It was an immediate fear of death that set in with me,” he says. “Not knowing that I had options to sustain my life. I have two young kids, and while my quality of life was deteriorating, their quality of life was deteriorating. I wasn’t able to do a lot of things that I needed to.”

Simmons sought help from transplant specialists at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, who immediately ordered dialysis treatment and listed him for a kidney transplant.

A Desperate Plea Answered

Danelle Chapman and Gary Simmons
Danelle Chapman and Gary Simmons

Simmons’ physicians explained that the only way to cut down his time on the waiting list was to find someone willing to give him one of his or her kidneys; a living donor.

“They talked about self-advocacy,” Simmons says. “I sent my story out to just about everyone that was in my e-mail contacts.”

That list included friends, family, and many of the people he had only recently contacted initially about his current position at Lindale Middle School. Simmons received a reply from his boss, Danelle Chapman, who hired him only a few months prior.

“She responded the next day saying, ‘Hey, I’m going to look into this to see if I can donate to you.’”

Simmons was shocked.

“I didn’t think it made any sense. She just gave me a job,” he says. “She really didn’t know me besides from school. I said, ‘Nobody’s really that kind.’ But it turns out she is.”

Choosing the Gift of Life

Chapman chairs the school’s special education department and, until Simmons’ e-mail, did not know the severity of her colleague’s illness. She says the decision to become his living donor was not a difficult one.

“First, I realized he was in his forties and raising two kids. I already knew about his work ethic and his community service. He’s just an all-around great guy,” Chapman says. “I felt like he had a lot to give, and it was important to extend the quality of his life so that he could be there for his kids and provide for them.”

She kept her word, undergoing tests and examinations at the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute (MGTI) to determine if she could donate to Gary.

“It’s a phenomenal program,” Chapman says. “Everyone was very kind throughout in explaining the procedure. They were extremely supportive.”

Plotting a New Course

Unfortunately, the results of the tests showed that Chapman and Simmons were not a blood match, meaning that her kidney could not be donated directly. Fortunately, there are other options.“Paired kidney exchange (PKE) is just one of the tools we use to complete living donor transplants even if the donor and recipient are not biologically compatible,” says Jennifer Verbesey, MD, director of the Living Donor Transplant Program at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. “Through the exchange, we can connect our pairs with others in the same position across the country and ultimately find matches. The goal is to build donation chains so that two, three, four or more people can end up getting a new kidney instead of just one person.”

After agreeing to take part in the paired kidney exchange, Chapman could finally deliver the big news.

“I think the look on his face was very surprised,” Chapman recalls through laughter.

“I didn’t know whether to scream, to cry, or to shout. I’ll be honest, I was in such shock that I was motionless,” says Simmons. “It was amazing. God gave me a job and put me in a place where people were really looking after me.”

One Kidney Saving Two Lives

Simmons after his successful surgery
Simmons after his successful surgery

Coordinators at MGTI were able to fit both patients into the paired kidney exchange network. A blood match recipient was found for Chapman’s kidney and, in return, Simmons would receive a compatible kidney back from another donor in the exchange.

“It’s pretty amazing when I think about the impact because it definitely effects so many more people than just Gary,” Chapman says.

“She started off with the intention of helping me but, at the end of the day, she ended up saving two lives,” said Simmons.

Both successful surgeries took place during the same week in late July. Gary had his new kidney transplanted by Dr. Verbesey just two days before his birthday on July 25th. It’s a gift he will never forget.

“Danelle gave me a job, she gave me a birthday gift, and she gave me a kidney!” he says.

Overwhelming Support

In an additional show of support and kindness, another teacher from Lindale Middle School, Terra Greene, is serving as Simmons’ caretaker throughout his recovery from transplant surgery. Gary plans on returning to work in October or November. Chapman says she’ll be ready for the start of the new school year in late-August, and she is excited to eventually tell students all about her summer vacation.

MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute performs more living donor kidney transplants than any other healthcare institution in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. It is also recognized as a national leader in kidney exchange and the management of recipients and donors who are incompatible. Only a handful of transplant centers in the United States offer this option to their patients. For more information, visit: MedStarGeorgetown.org/LivingDonor

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Debbie Asrate
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Outpatient Lab has Moved

The Outpatient Lab has moved! The Outpatient Lab is under a complete renovation and has been temporarily relocated to the 1st Floor of the Main building. The Lab is now located in the Laboratory Medicine hallway, adjacent to the orange elevators. Patient must register in the registration area by the Chapel on 1 Main, close to the entrance of the Main building.