Tower Health Transplant Institute Performs First Kidney Transplant at Reading Hospital

Tower Health Transplant Institute performed its first organ transplant at Reading Hospital on Monday, May 25. The three-and-a-half-hour kidney transplant surgery was performed by surgeons Gary Xiao, MD; Stephen Guy, MD; and David Reich, MD.

Vanessa Smith, 63, of Pottstown, was the first THTI patient to receive a new organ. “I’d recommend this team to anyone,” Ms. Smith said. “I trust them with my life.” Ms. Smith is a long-time patient of Karthik Ranganna, MD, her transplant nephrologist and medical director of THTI Kidney Transplant Program and Associate Professor of Medicine, Drexel University College of Medicine.

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“This milestone for the Tower Health Transplant Institute is a result of many months of comprehensive preparation by a multidisciplinary team of highly skilled individuals,” said Dr. Reich, Director of Tower Health Transplant Institute and Professor of Surgery, Drexel University College of Medicine. “I’m proud to be part of an organization that is dedicated not just to providing great surgical care, but also to the planning and support necessary for transplant candidates and recipients to achieve improved quality of life long-term.”

Tower Health and the transplant team established additional “COVID-safe” protocols above the hospital’s standard procedures to protect patients and team members. These included performing a rapid COVID-19 test on Ms. Smith and her organ donor, using a specially sterilized and ventilated room for her stay in the Reading Hospital HealthPlex – isolated from other patients, minimizing unnecessary access to the patient pre and post-surgery, and continuing strict adherence by all staff to masking, gowning and gloving. Ms. Smith also socially distanced and practiced proper hand hygiene to decrease her risk for infection prior to surgery.

According to Dr. Ranganna this is Ms. Smith’s second transplant. “She took great care of the organ transplanted in 2004 but it’s function slowly declined,” said Dr. Ranganna. “Repeat transplants are more challenging to perform but are not uncommon, as improved transplant care extends the years recipients can live healthfully,” said Dr. Guy, surgical director of THTI Kidney Transplant Program. Those who do require a second procedure go through the same screening and prioritization process as first-time recipients.

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“Ms. Smith was the perfect match for the donated organ,” said Dr. Xiao, transplant surgeon and surgical director of THTI Liver Transplant and Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary (HPB) Surgery Programs. “A wonderful job was done by all the team members across the organization for the first kidney transplant at Reading Hospital. This was true teamwork.”

Ms. Smith also added, “Organ donation is amazing gift for someone to give so I can continue to live. I also plan to be an organ donor and have shared those wishes with my family.”

In a statement, Tower Health President and CEO Clint Matthews said, “We created the Tower Health Transplant Institute to ensure that its team of exceptional surgeons, physicians, and staff would be able to provide world-class transplant care for the communities served by Tower Health. It is gratifying to have this first procedure completed, and we look forward to helping other patients and families who are awaiting this life-saving surgery.”

The Tower Health Transplant Institute and Center for Liver Disease includes transplant and hepato-pancreato-biliary (HPB) surgery, hepatology, and transplant nephrology inpatient services at Reading Hospital, selected inpatient services at Chestnut Hill Hospital, and outpatient services at Reading Hospital and in Center City Philadelphia. The THTI team, formerly located at Hahnemann University Hospital, joined the Tower Health team in late 2019.

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