The first ever Celebrate Transplant Research Event was a resounding success! The evening brought together a wide range of individuals including health care professionals, the public, transplant patients and financial donors. Everyone had their own reason for attending but it was evident that everyone shared an interest in and passion for transplant research.
After the crowd mingled over refreshments, the night opened with a warm welcome from Lori Lothian, TRF chair. Lori offered an honest but frank overview of why research is so vital to the transplant world. She spoke to the fact that while organ donation rates continue to rise, the need for donor organs outweighs donor availability. But, receiving an organ is not the end of the journey. Patients fortunate enough to receive a lifesaving transplant face a new set of challenges related to immunosuppression drug therapy and organ longevity.
Kristi Coldwell, a heart transplant patient, spoke of this reality as she shared what it really means to be a transplant patient. Seventeen years post-transplant, Kristi still takes 16 pills a day. These pills are life sustaining but come with significant, and at times debilitating, side effects. Kristi’s quality of life and very existence depends on research.
The crowd had a chance to learn about the Addison Pediatric Transplant Research Project, dedicated solely to raising money to support pediatric transplant research. Elaine Yong, mom to Addison a precocious 6-year-old who received a heart transplant as a newborn, explained why it is so vital to fund pediatric transplant research. Children are not little adults but rather a distinct group of patients that have unique needs and challenges. Addison’s parents recognized this need and established the Addison Fund to ensure children, like their daughter, live the best life possible after transplant.
The future of transplantation is one of hope and promise, due in part to the innovative and groundbreaking research funded by TRF. Far too often the word research cultivates images of test tubes, complicated formulas and scientists preforming experiments. Research is something most people view with indifference and weariness. It is hard for people without a scientific background to relate to research and comprehend its relevance to everyday life. We want to change that view because we know research is not only exciting but key to a better life pre-and post-transplant!
We were fortunate to have Dr. John Boyd and Dr. Tom Byldt-Hansen present their latest TRF funded research to the audience in a manner that was informative but also understandable. Dr. Boyd discussed his project “Biomarkers of Transplant Viability in Marginal Donor Hearts” which aims to address the shortage of donor hearts by increasing the number of hearts available for transplantation through donation after circulatory death (DCD donation). His work has great significance for the heart transplant community.
Dr. Tom Blydt-Hansen offered an overview of his project “Understanding quality of life indicators after pediatric organ transplantation.” Dr. Blydt- Hansen takes a holistic approach in his examination of what quality of life means for pediatric transplant patients. His project considers all domains of development including physical health and wellbeing, psychosocial factors as well as the mental health of children and adolescence. The importance of this project was highlighted when a mother in the audience stood up and thanked Dr. Blydt-Hansen for addressing this topic. As a parent of a transplant patient, this mother gave an powerful first-hand account of the struggles pediatric
patients and their families endure post-transplant. This is research that resonates with the transplant community and targets an area of practice that has not received much attention.
We were very excited to have to Aggie Black and Clare Bannon from Providence Health Care speak about the recent partnership between TRF, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) and Providence Health Care (PHC) to fund solid organ transplant related projects through their Research Challenge programs. Aggie explained that the program is aimed at Point-of-Care Nursing and Allied Health Staff and provides winning teams with $5000 for their projects. Who better to identify research topics that are pertinent to transplant patients than the front-line clinicians who work with these patients on a regular basis.
Clare Bannon, one of the recent 2017 Research Challenge winners, spoke about her team’s project “Assessing the knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs of Kidney Care Clinic staff about kidney transplantation before and after a multi-pronged education program”. This project is what the program is all about: empowering clinicians on the front lines to make changes in care practices, ultimately improving patient care.
The Celebrate Transplant Research event gave us a chance to connect and engage with the transplant community while sharing some of the exciting research we have funded this year. A sincere thank you to everyone who joined us for our Celebrate Transplant Event and made it such a successful night!