Hospital Heroes – University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Lung Transplant Team


My name is Julia Klesney-Tait. I’m the medical director the lung
transplant program at the University of Iowa. I’ve been at the University of Iowa since
2007, where I’ve had the opportunity to help
develop a lung transplant program and at the same time I’ve been able to
work in my research lab to try to understand how neutrophils
traffic in the lung. I think one of the most difficult things
about this job is trying to figure out how to take
patients who are profoundly debilitated and get them ready for what is an enormous operation, with the potential to survive it. I’m Abigail Mack and I am a nurse
coordinator for the lung transplant program. The most rewarding part of my job is to see my patients that are extremely ill come into our clinic, on fifteen liters of
oxygen and struggling to breathe on that, and then the miracle that our
medical doctors and surgeons do to make that person a normal person again and able to breathe and do the activities they wanna do, either
run marathons or play with their grandkids… anything.
It is a miracle. My name is Kal Parekh. I’m a thoracic surgeon here at the University. The University of Iowa lung transplant
program is unique because it is a very collaborative program. There is a single vision for the program, in that the patient outcomes
come first, and the medical team, the surgical team, the anesthesiology team, and the intensivist team work
together very well to have the best possible
outcomes. Our lung transplant team has been an amazingly dedicated team that is taking each one of these patients and look at them as individuals and their
goal is to not only make them feel better but also make
them live longer. I’ve had some of my patients with cystic fibrosis
that have had lung transplants and were transplanted by Dr. Kal Parekh, Dr Julia Klesney-Tait and the team, and it’s
amazing when you see them the next day their voice changes, their posture
changes, they can walk around a room, this a day after they’ve had their chest opened to get a
lung transplant. More importantly, the follow up these patients get is superb. Every symptom, every sign of something not going the right way…
Dr. Klesney-Tait, Abby, Kal Parekh and their team, they jump on it. and they make sure they rectify any
problems. The most rewarding part of my work is
actually seeing patients after they’ve been short of breath for
months or years on the first or second postoperative day when they tell me that they can take a
deep breath for the first time in four years. I remember one of my patients
sneezed while she was talking to me and she actually started to cry because she hadn’t been able to take a
big enough breath to sneeze in five years. Another patient that comes to mind is a young mother who was dying of
cystic fibrosis and the day after her transplant… the
smile on her face and I asked her “what’s the most exciting thing she had planned for the week?” and it was singing the ABCs with her
two-year-old son. One of the things that patients may want to
know is that we have a shorter waiting time on the wait-list.
We have the shortest length of stay in the hospital following
lung transplantation and our patients don’t stay on the
mechanical ventilation for more than one or two days after lung
transplantation, which is quite unique for a program our size. Our outcomes are significantly better
than the national average. We can give personalized care to all of
our patients and make the patients feel like they are
an individual and not just a number. We’re able to get patient individual
attention that’s perhaps not available at larger programs. The patients are not a number to us. They
have a name, we know their family. Our patients have an identified coordinator that follows them throughout the process as well as an
identified physician. One of my main jobs for these patients is to make them relax make them calm. It can be an emotional roller coaster
for these patients. There’s a plethora of testing that they have to do. It’s a rigorous course, and it’s my job to keep them on course, and to make sure that I’m there to answer
any questions that they may have and to keep them calm. We believe that this kind of
continuity of care is one of the reasons that we have been
for the past five years one of the top-five programs in the
country in terms of one year patient survivals. We remain at the top the nation in
long-term survivors as well. The accomplishment of having the third-best outcomes in the country fills the team with joy. But at the
same time, they don’t feel that the work is done. University of Iowa Health Care: Changing medicine. Changing lives.

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