MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) – Patients needing a heart or kidney transplant will no longer have to travel long distances to receive care because Ruby Memorial can now provide those services.
A few months ago, the hospital received approval to start performing heart transplants and this month, they have received approval for kidney transplants, making them the first and only hospital in the state to receive approval to perform multi-organ transplants.
President and CEO Albert Wright said it was a lengthy process because the hospital had to get the infrastructure in place to make sure that they could properly treat patients in order to receive approval.
“It’s very complex to start a kidney transplant program but at the end of the day, we are the medical center for the land grant university for the state of West Virginia and we want to be as comprehensive as possible in the way we take care of patients in West Virginia and not have patients have to leave the state for anything,” Wright said.
He said the process to receive approval for kidney transplants began roughly two years ago when they hired their assistant vice president of transplantation Michael Shullo and a team of medical professionals consisting of dieticians, pharmacists, and surgeons. Wright said the process of transplanting an organ is more complicated than most think because many only envision the surgical process.
However, he said they needed a team because there are many steps required before and after the surgery. He said the team is especially important after the transplant because it requires your body receiving a foreign entity which can be complicated.
“Your body is constantly going to try to reject that foreign entity,” Wright said. “We have to have that team that is now going to take care of you post-transplant, the rest of your life to make sure that that organ works and that you now have working kidneys and you can live a normal and healthy life.”
Michael Shullo, assistant vice president of transplantation, said he was very excited to have the facility in state because West Virginia has one of the highest rates of advanced renal disease in the country.
“This allows them to have a shot, to have a chance to receive advanced care and to be counted and considered because you can’t get a transplant if you’re not on the list and you cannot get on a list if you don’t go to a center,” Shullo said. “So now we have a center here that people can go to and get care.”
He said a majority of folks, in the northern half of the state, who required it were never receiving an evaluation for transplants. In addition, Shullo said many left the state so that they could join other states’ kidney waitlists because of the lack of proper facilities, like the one they have now created.
“There have been multiple sorts of kidney programs over time but no one has taken the leap and dedicated themselves to be a transplant hospital,” Shullo said.
As a result of the lack of a transplant hospital, Shullo said many people suffering from liver failure had to receive dialysis treatments, which he said may work well for some but not all patients.
“The data is very clear – patients on dialysis do not live nearly as long as patients who receive kidney transplants nor is their quality of life as high,” he said. “So people who have kidney transplants live longer and have a better quality of life.”
Wright said the hospital hopes to start adding patients to the kidney transplant wait list by mid-November.