Wisconsin doctors help organ donation patients get new life

STAR TRIBUNE | Nathan Phelps

MILWAUKEE — Sara Everts and her husband took a yellow Ford Mustang convertible to visit Arizona and Nevada.

In March, Everts, 50, got a new liver from a deceased donor and vowed to live her life to the fullest in the wake of the operation, necessitated by a rare bile duct cancer. The transplant was her only chance for survival.

She told her story last month to an audience of three — a pair of transplant coordinators and her transplant surgeon — as they gathered in an exam room of the Center for Advanced Care at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin. The three have been with her throughout her unexpected medical journey of almost two years, and, she says, have become part of her life.

There are similar stories at transplants centers across the nation. Getting a patient like Everts through a transplant can be a long and involved process. Dozens of people, from nutritionists to pharmacists and people specializing in finance, all play vital, if quiet, roles in getting the patient to the operating room and on with his or her new life. And through the appointments, procedures and follow-ups, patients and some on the team of medical professionals are in such close and frequent contact that they can develop a bond that lasts long after the transplant surgery is complete.

USA Today Network-Wisconsin reports that Everts is one of 140 patients who has received a new liver in Wisconsin this year. There are about 2,100 people on waiting lists for organs transplants in Wisconsin.

Nationwide, more than 116,500 people are in need of a transplant, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. On average, about 20 people die each day around the country awaiting a transplant.

At the center of the process for Everts were transplant coordinators Shannon Sova and Kate Kopsi at Froedert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, both of whom worked directly with her. The job is described as the "quarterback" of the transplant team, serving as a resource for patients and physicians alike. Continue reading

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