UK transplant patient shares emotional bond with family of donor

By early 2016, Conrad Webster was battling to stay alive.

Cardiomyopathy and polycystic kidney disease had destroyed his heart and kidneys, and his health had been deteriorating for nearly a decade. A combined heart-kidney transplant was his only remaining option.

After being turned away by multiple regional transplant centers, he came to the UK Transplant Center, where he was admitted right away and listed for transplant.

In April 2016, West Virginian Tim Maris suffered from pneumonia and a brain hemorrhage that ultimately took his life. Before passing, Tim told his family that he wished to be an organ donor.

Tim’s request saved three lives: One patient received his liver, another received a kidney and Conrad received both his heart and a kidney.

‘I was just so happy to know Tim is still out there’

Working through Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates, Tim’s mother, Evelyn, sent a card to Conrad expressing her desire to meet. They began corresponding via letters and phone calls, and made plans for their families to meet in person at KODA’s Donor Family Recognition Ceremony in Lexington.

Conrad, his wife Leticia, and two of their children drove down from Ohio to meet members of Tim’s family: Evelyn, his sister Penny and brother-in-law Howie, and his nephew, Caleb.

“I couldn’t really get any sleep [the night before],” Conrad said. “My nerves were just built up so much.”

The two families spent several hours chatting before the ceremony, sharing stories and pictures from their lives. Representatives from KODA provided a stethoscope to allow Evelyn, Penny and Howie the chance to hear Tim’s heart beating in Conrad’s chest.

Evelyn says that meeting Conrad and his family provided her with some much-needed closure.

“My heart was about to burst, we were so excited,” she said. “It was a joy. I was just so happy to know Tim is still out there.”

A life-changing experience

For Conrad, Tim’s gift completely changed his life. After years of chronic illness, he’s able to do things he never thought he’d have the chance to do again, like travel, prepare his youngest daughters for college and meet his grandchild.

And last October – just six months after receiving his transplant – Conrad and Leticia got married in Florida after 11 years together.

Because of their experiences, members of both families have decided to become organ donors themselves.

“Someone saved my husband, and kids’ father,” Leticia said. “Why not join Donate Life to help another family or multiple families in need?”

Becoming an organ donor

Although hospitals are obligated by law to identify potential donors and inform families of their right to donate, anyone can sign up to become an organ donor by joining the Kentucky Organ Donor Registry. The registry is a safe and secure electronic database where a person’s wishes regarding donation will be carried out as requested.

To join the registry, visit www.donatelifeky.org or sign up when you renew your driver’s license. The donor registry enables family members to know that you chose to save and enhance lives through donation. Kentucky’s “First Person Consent” laws mean that the wishes of an individual on the registry will be carried out as requested.

UK Transplant Patient Thankful to Meet Donor Family from University of Kentucky on Vimeo.

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stress-free Thanksgiving

6 steps for a stress-free Thanksgiving

Between cleaning your house, preparing the holiday meal and dealing with family, Thanksgiving can quickly go from celebratory to stressful. Here a few ways to keep stress at a minimum:

1. Ask for help.

Divide and conquer your to-do list with the help of family member or guests. Don’t hesitate to ask for help with food prep and other chores around the house.

2. Take a deep breath.

Practice deep breathing. Taking deep breaths when you get stressed out can lower your heart rate and help your body naturally relax.

Try the 4-7-8 method recommended by former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Andrew Weil – breathe in slowly for four counts, hold for seven counts, then exhale for eight counts.

3. Enjoy the atmosphere.

Prepare a feel-good Thanksgiving playlist with music that will make cooking fun and keep your guests in a good mood.

Take regular breaks from preparing dinner to chat with friends and family or simply to rest your feet.

4. Make time for a turkey trot.

Get some exercise earlier in the day, before you sit down at the dinner table.

A brisk 30-minute walk can burn between 100 and 200 calories and help get you on the right side of the day’s calorie count. And not only that, exercise of any kind helps trigger your body’s natural stress-relieving responses.

5. Keep the meal manageable.

If you’re hosting this year’s feast, don’t stress about trying to please everyone. Keep the meal simple and don’t overextend yourself trying to prepare too much.

If guests want a certain type of stuffing, a particular side dish or a special kind of pie that you weren’t planning to make, ask them to bring it.

6. Don’t beat yourself up.

Think about your health this holiday, but remember, it’s just one day.  If you do go for that second slice of pumpkin pie or extra helping of stuffing, it’s not the end of the world. Enjoy yourself and the company of friends and family on Thanksgiving, while resolving to make healthy choices part of your year-round lifestyle.


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UK nursing leaders and alumnae honored for excellence

Current and retired faculty members and distinguished alumnae in the UK College of Nursing have been honored by a number of organizations for their work in the fields of teaching and health care.

Carolyn Williams, dean emeritus of the UK College of Nursing and former president of the American Academy of Nursing, was one of five nurse leaders to receive the academy’s designation of Living Legend, the organization’s highest honor, at a special ceremony in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 5.

The Academy recognizes a small number of fellows as Living Legends each year. To be eligible, the Living Legend must have been an academy fellow for at least 15 years and have demonstrated extraordinary, sustained contributions to nursing and healthcare.

Williams was honored for her work in public health epidemiology and nursing education. Her groundbreaking work advocates for community health through population-focused research and care. She was actively involved in efforts that led to the creation of the National Institute for Nursing Research. As dean of the UK College of Nursing, she launched the nation’s first doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program. As president of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, she pressed for development of the DNP nationally.

Janie Heath, current dean of the UK College of Nursing, was recognized as a distinguished alumna by her alma mater, the University of Oklahoma College of Nursing on Oct. 27. The award was established by the college and the Alumni Board of Directors to recognize graduates who demonstrate “outstanding leadership related to the field of nursing or healthcare” and who have made “significant clinical, academic, research or other contributions to nursing or health care on a local, state, national or international level.”

In addition, the UK College of Nursing honored five new inductees in its Hall of Fame on Nov. 10 at 21C Hotel in Lexington. The honorees are:

  • Karen S. Hill ’87, chief operating officer/chief nursing officer for Baptist Health in Lexington.
  • Sheila H. Ridner ’78, director at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing.
  • Marcia K. Stanhope ’67, former director of Good Samaritan.
  • Colleen H. Swartz ’87 DNP ’11, chief nurse executive/chief administrative officer at UK HealthCare.
  • Gail A. Wolf ’78, former chief nursing officer, University of Pittsburgh Health Care System.

Established in 2006, the College of Nursing Hall of Fame identifies distinguished graduates and their extraordinary contributions to the nursing profession.

“Drs. Hill, Ridner, Stanhope, Swartz and Wolf are pioneers who truly embody the Wildcat spirit – a spirit of curiosity and determination,” said Heath. “One that impacts nursing practice through teaching with excellence, advancing scholarly practice, generating nursing science and embracing differences.”


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Markey receives NCI grant to expand tobacco cessation treatment

The UK Markey Cancer Center is one of 22 cancer centers nationwide to receive funding to build and implement tobacco cessation treatment programs via the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Center Cessation Initiative.

In 2017, NCI launched the Cancer Center Cessation Initiative as part of the NCI Cancer Moonshot℠ program. Through this initiative, Markey will receive $253,000 over the next year to help enhance the delivery of tobacco cessation treatments through four major efforts:

  • Refining electronic medical records and clinical workflows to ensure the systematic identification and documentation of smokers and the routine delivery of evidence-based tobacco cessation treatment services.
  • Overcoming patient, clinician, clinic and health system barriers to providing tobacco cessation treatment services.
  • Achieving institutional buy-in that treating tobacco use is a component of organizational “Standard of Care.”
  • Creating mechanisms to sustain tobacco cessation treatment services so that they continue beyond the funding period of the initiative.

Kentucky has more cases of lung cancer than any other state, and its mortality rate is 50 percent higher than the national average. Though other environmental factors play a part in the development of lung cancer, smoking and other uses of tobacco are the root cause of the disease.

“This grant award provides the means for Markey to embark on a clinically important, two-pronged approach to tobacco treatment, one that includes both provider education and patient care,” said Jessica Burris, assistant professor of psychology in the UK College of Arts & Sciences and member of the Markey Cancer Prevention and Control program.

“The goal is to quickly and reliably assess the tobacco use status of each and every patient, and to deliver evidence-based cessation treatment to all tobacco users. With this initiative, the promise of a marked, positive impact on the lives of Markey patients is clear because tobacco treatment is cancer treatment.”


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College of Nursing faculty member receives grant to fight opioid abuse among pregnant women

Kristin Ashford, PhD, APRN, WHNP-BC, FAAN, associate professor and associate dean of Undergraduate Faculty Affairs in the UK College of Nursing, has been awarded the Hillman Innovations in Care Program grant from the Rita & Alex Hillman Foundation for her work in addressing the opioid epidemic and its impact on maternal-fetal health.

The $600,000 award will enable Ashford to continue to expand both the Perinatal Assistance and Treatment Home (PATHways) and Beyond Birth programs. The PATHways program integrates evidence-based knowledge through a comprehensive approach to perinatal opioid use disorder, offering buprenorphine maintenance treatment for both opioid use disorder and neonatal abstinence syndrome, peer support and education, legal support, prenatal and postnatal health services for mother and baby, and health system navigation during delivery.

PATHways has been expanded to include the Beyond Birth program, which provides wraparound services and access to resources to aid in maintaining recovery in the two years following delivery. 

“After women give birth, they experience the highest amount of stress in their lifetime, and this is when they need the most support in their recovery,” said Ashford.

The grant will be used to expand access to the program in communities that may not have the resources available to provide this type of multidisciplinary care to mothers with opioid use disorder. The grant will also be used to provide training to clinicians in high-need low-resource communities including Hazard and Morehead.

“The most important part of this program is helping mothers be the parents that they want to be,” Ashford said. “The Hillman Innovations in Care Program grant will enable the team to reach and help more women.”


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Want your kids to stay smoke-free? Start with these tips.

Anti-smoking messages seem to be everywhere, but still every year thousands of teenagers try cigarettes. It’s never too early to talk to your kids about the dangers of smoking. Here are some tips:

  • Start early. Begin talking to your kids when they’re 5 or 6, and keep the conversation going. Be sure to keep the information you share appropriate to their age.
  • Be honest. Ask your kids what they find appealing and unappealing about smoking. If you smoke or have smoked, tell to your children why it was such a bad decision.
  • Set a good example. Don’t smoke, and if you do, quit. If you’ve had trouble quitting, talk to you kids about why it’s so hard and why you wish you’d never started.
  • Make it real and share statistics. Using tobacco causes many serious health problems and has a negative effect on the way we look, smell, feel and act.
  • Encourage anti-smoking activities. Sports, band or other school activities inhibit smoking, keep kids busy and encourage healthy behavior.
  • Talk about peer pressure. Offer good examples of how to say no to tobacco (and other bad influences).
  • Have clear punishments. Let your children know how you will discipline them if they smoke.
  • Spend time with your kids. Share meals together, plan activities or find fun ways to connect.

Remember, children are influenced by their friends and what they see on TV and online, but parents are still the most important influence in their lives.


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How to help a loved one cope with withdrawal – and quit for good

Today is the Great American Smokeout, an event held annually to encourage the millions of smokers in the U.S. to quit or to make a plan to quit. Giving up cigarettes is one of the hardest things many people will ever do, so if you have a friend or loved one trying to quit, know that your support can make a huge difference.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Respect that the quitter is in charge. Be a good listener and ask how you can help.
  • Learn how people quit. Find out about quitting aids like nicotine patches, gum or non-nicotine medication.
  • Provide “supplies” to help them quit. This could include hard candy, gum or toothpicks, or even fresh vegetables cut up in the refrigerator.
  • Plan and encourage distractions. Take a walk, go to the movies or start a new hobby together.
  • Keep your home smoke free. This includes not only cigarettes, but also lighters and ash trays. Remove any reminders of smoking.
  • Reduce stress by helping with chores, cooking or even childcare.
  • Don’t take it personally. Nicotine withdrawal is a real thing, so expect some grumpiness. Withdrawal symptoms don’t last forever, and usually go away after two weeks.
  • Celebrate! Quitting smoking is a big deal that should be rewarded.

Helping with a slip-up:

  • Don’t tease, blame or make the quitter feel guilty.
  • Don’t assume they’ll automatically relapse. Taking a puff or smoking a cigarette does not mean the quitter is a failure.
  • Be affirmative. Remind them of the reasons they quit and the positive gains they’ve made.
  • Help make a plan. A failed attempt to quit is a good opportunity to talk about triggers and ask how else you can help.
  • Be realistic. It’s not uncommon for ex-smokers to start smoking again, so remind the quitter that they aren’t alone.

How to help if you’re a smoker:

  • Be respectful. Know that when you smoke, it’s a trigger for someone who is trying to quit.
  • Keep your cigarettes, lighter or matches out of sight.
  • Don’t joke. Don’t offer a cigarette, even if you’re kidding.
  • Know that you can help. Even if you smoke, you can offer encouragement and praise to someone who is quitting.

Be positive, and let your friend or loved one know that you’re here to help for the long haul. Your support can greatly increase the chances of success for the person giving up smoking.


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Listen: UK at the Half discusses exciting KCH partnership

Dr. James Quintessenza, chief of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery at UK HealthCare, and Dr. Scottie Day, interim chair of the UK Department of Pediatrics and physician in chief at Kentucky Children’s Hospital, were featured during “UK at the Half,” which aired during the UK vs. Utah Valley basketball game radio broadcast on Nov. 10.

The doctors talked about UK’s new partnership with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital that will offer the best pediatric heart care in the area.

“UK at the Half” airs during the halftime of each UK football and basketball game broadcast and is hosted by Carl Nathe of UK Public Relations and Marketing.

To hear the latest episode, click on the play button below.


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Dr. Jonathan Kiev answers questions about lung cancer.

Got questions about lung cancer? Dr. Jonathan Kiev has answers.

Dr. Jonathan Kiev

Dr. Jonathan Kiev

Written by Dr. Jonathan Kiev, a cardiothoracic surgeon at UK HealthCare.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, so now’s a great time for me to answer some common questions about the disease.

Lung cancer is a major problem in Kentucky. Unfortunately, our state leads the nation in both lung cancer incidence and deaths.

The good news is people who are at high risk for lung cancer – specifically, those who have a history of smoking – are eligible to undergo low-dose CT screening for the disease. This diagnostic test allows us to find lung cancer at a much earlier stage, giving us more time to potentially provide life-saving treatments. Even better news? The UK Markey Cancer Center has a Lung Cancer Screen Program for patients at high risk.

So, who’s at risk for lung cancer and what causes the disease?

First and foremost, if you smoke, seek help to quit.

Smoking is by far the No. 1 cause of lung cancer, and it causes head and neck cancers, too. It’s responsible for a variety of health problems not seen in non-smokers. In addition, hypertension and peripheral vascular disease are directly related to smoking, which is why getting on a nicotine cessation program is the first step.

(Related: Check out our tips for conquering a smoking addiction.)

Your doctor will take into account your current health and health history to decide if you are at risk for lung cancer. They will then order the appropriate blood tests and imaging (chest X-ray and CT scan) to see if you have developed early signs of the disease.

Can working in a coal mine or around asbestos cause lung cancer?

Any inhaled substance or chemical can cause lung cancer over repeated exposure, so the short answer is yes.

More importantly, exposure to these types of substances in high-risk professions can lead to other chronic lung illnesses as well. Patients in these professions need to be followed by specialists who understand their occupational risks and hazards.

What is lung cancer staging?

Staging is a way for your physician to determine the type of lung cancer that you have, and whether it has spread to your lymph nodes or to other organs.

Lung cancer can spread to the brain, bones and the adrenal gland. These are all treatable areas, but we like to catch the tumor as early as possible. Staging allows physicians to determine which therapy is best for you: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or a combination of those. Additionally, your prognosis and risk of recurrence are linked to cancer stage.

How is lung cancer treated?

There are different options to treat lung cancer, so it’s important for you and your family to seek second opinions and find a physician who understands your priorities.

Surgery is best used for early-stage tumors that are smaller, but we can also perform successful operations for larger tumors that have spread to the chest wall. Radiation is available to patients that are not interested in or are not healthy enough to recover from a major chest surgery.

How is lung cancer surgery performed?

Thoracic surgeons specialize in the latest oncology techniques to successfully perform lung cancer surgery.

Typically, surgeons use small incisions and a camera to remove the diseased segments of the lung and its surrounding lymph nodes. Occasionally, a larger incision between the ribs is necessary (this is called a thoracotomy) if the tumor is large or centrally located.

Is robotic surgery available for lung cancer?

Yes, robotic surgery has been available for about 10 years, and it allows your surgeon to remove the affected lung or areas of the lung.

Robotic surgery provides a three-dimensional view, allowing surgeons to better see the areas they’re operating on.


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UK dean’s outstanding research recognized by the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association (AHA) awarded its Population Research Prize for 2017 to Donna K. Arnett, dean of the UK College of Public Health and professor of epidemiology, “for insightful research successfully blending the basic molecular sciences with population studies to produce a highly relevant new understanding of major aspects of cardiovascular disease including risk prediction, hypertension and heart failure.”

Arnett received the prize during Sunday’s opening of the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2017, a premier global exchange of the latest advances in cardiovascular science for researchers and clinicians, which was held at the Anaheim Convention Center in California. The annual prize honors important studies of cardiovascular disease patterns in populations.

“Throughout her praise-worthy career, Dr. Arnett has worked to integrate molecular science with population studies, using her extensive training in both disciplines, to produce broadly relevant results for the health of the public,” said Dr. John Warner, president of the AHA.

“Her personal success is evident in both her publication record and her funding,” he noted. “She has published more than 500 peer-reviewed reports in high-impact journals in multiple fields, including seminal work she has led identifying genetic biomarkers and in risk prediction, hypertension, heart failure, imaging and methods development.”

Arnett also has played a key role in the development of the population research portfolio of the AHA, where she served as a bridge between the population and molecular research communities.

“Her many years of service have included time as a high-profile role model for population research during her presidency of this association, in 2012-2013,” Warner said.

An NIH-funded researcher for 20 years, Arnett studies genes related to hypertensive disorders and organ damage that results from hypertension. She has published more than 450 peer-reviewed papers and two books.


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