The team received the Excellence and Teamwork Award from the National Kidney Registry on June 29 in New York City.
Representing the team were nurses Kate Hefner (Incompatible Donor Coordinator) and Shelby Adams (Living Donor Coordinator).
“[The award is] given to medical centers who — through exceptional coordination and communication — went above and beyond in demonstrating excellence and teamwork for a complex kidney swap,” Hefner said. “It’s actually going to eight centers that completed one of our most challenging swaps during the past year. There were 14 surgeries and multiple chain repairs, which resulted in seven lifesaving transplants.”
Time is of the essence in these circumstances, where a transplant often must take place between two and three days.
“Paired kidney transplants are much more challenging due to having more than one pair involved,” said Hefner. “I always warn them that there’s going to be false alarms and it is a roller coaster at times. I think I’ve only had one or two swaps that went through on the first try.”
Adams described the 50-year-old Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program at AU Health as “making the impossible possible.”
She added, “These recipients think they’re never going to find a match. They feel like it’s impossible and [Hefner and the team] make it all come together. For our small hospital to be able to handle something like that and make it come together is huge.”
The kidney transplant center at AU Health is the only one in Georgia outside of Atlanta. Additionally, it was previously only one of 10 such programs to receive the Kidney Transplant Excellence Award from HealthGrades in 2010.