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Patients, VCU Health Hume-Lee staff celebrate 5,000th transplant milestone


Marlon Levy, M.D., stands with Elmer Lynn, Jr. at VCU Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center’s celebration of its 5,000th transplant.

Cutting into celebratory cake that he can’t yet eat, Elmer Lynn Jr. was all smiles at the VCU Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center’s celebration to commemorate its 5,000th transplant surgery. Just six weeks ago, he was the center’s 5,000th transplant patient, and though dietary restrictions kept him from indulging in cake at the event, Lynn has a sweet spot for VCU Health.

“I wanted to see all my doctors and surgeons and thank them all at one time,” Lynn said of why he traveled from his home in Washington, D.C., to attend the event.

Lynn, other transplant patients and their families, and Hume-Lee and VCU Health staff attended the celebration, intended to highlight the transplant milestone and serve as continued recognition of the 60th anniversary of the first organ transplant at the Medical College of Virginia, now Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center.

Hume-Lee leadership spoke at the event and described their work as a team effort.

“It’s not a team on the field all at the same time. It starts in one place,” said Peggy Schaeffer, nursing director and transplant administrator of the VCU Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center. “[The process] is so special and it really captured my heart many years ago.”

Marlon Levy, M.D., chair of the Division of Transplant Surgery and director of the VCU Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center, addressed the crowd with an enthusiasm he said hasn’t died since he’s been in the field of transplantation. He began at VCU Health in 2015 after serving as the surgical director of transplantation for Baylor All Saints Medical Center for 13 years.

“The work we do is so important in such specific ways,” he said. “It’s simply miraculous to me and continues to be even after being in the field many, many years.”

In August 2013, Jim Price, of Richmond, received a liver transplant at VCU Medical Center. He came to the celebration to see other transplant recipients and to reconnect with the staff he says compassionately educated him and his family about his procedure.  

“I always felt like they knew what was going on,” he said. “I was sometimes confused, but they were real good about explaining things to my family.”

Throughout the year, Hume-Lee has hosted several events to commemorate its anniversary and tout the importance of organ donation. In April 2016, a National Donate Life flag was raised outside VCU Medical Center in recognition of National Donate Life Month. Typically, the flag is raised whenever an organ donation occurs at VCU Health and Hume-Lee from a living or deceased donor. However, throughout April it remained at full staff. Going forward, Hume-Lee is poised to keep working and keep making a difference.

“What we are doing is ensuring the gift [of life] is successful every time,” Schaeffer said. Five-thousand transplants is a big deal and we’ll do 5,000 more.”

For more information about organ transplantation, visit vcuhealth.org/transplant. To learn more about organ donation and to register as a donor, visit donatelifevirginia.org.