Should transplant patients get flu shots?

October 17, 2011

Roll up your sleeves, transplant patients! You need your flu shot – maybe more than other folks.

This comes from Dr. Ramsey Hachem, Washington University pulmonologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

People seem to have excuses every year as to why they don’t need a flu shot – flu shots make them feel sick, they never get the flu, it’s inconvenient, they’re just tired of getting stuck.

Sorry, we aren’t buying any of it.

Influenza is a deceptively devastating illness. For many of its victims, it’s ends up being a week or two of fever, aches, chills, sore throat, coughing and general misery. 

But for people with weakened immune systems, it can be much worse, says Dr. Hachen.  Transplant patients, this means YOU.

People on immunosuppressants are more likely to catch the flu, he says. Then, in these patients, the flu is more likely to lead to complications  including sinus and ear infections and pneumonia. These complications, in someone whose immune system is impaired, are more likely to be severe and lead to hospitalizations.

The Centers for Disease Control’s flu information site recommends that EVERYONE over age six months get vaccinated.

The only caveat, says Dr. Hachem, is that transplant patients, ideally, should get a vaccine with a dead virus. Flu vaccines work by using dead influenza viruses to  trick the body into making antibodies against the flu. The only exception is inhaled vaccine, or FluMist, which uses a weakened live virus.

The problem with FluMist is that in rare cases, it can actually cause flu symptoms. Although it’s unlikely to cause the actual illness, transplant patients and others with weak immune systems shouldn’t take the chance.

S0, if you haven’t already, get that shot and stay healthy through this flu season.

There are still opportunities to get free flu shots supplied by the Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Check here for dates and times.


Time & Joy: Gifts You Can Bestow

April 25, 2011

When I was growing up, the accidental death of a young girl from my church family opened my eyes to the power of donating life.  Two of the people who received her organs even ended up getting married.  The time and joy her gift continues to bestow on these families are priceless.

While being matched with an organ means a second chance at life, some transplant patients still have many hurdles.  In this economy, we’ve seen patients struggling with the cost of basic necessities like food, safe lodging, and, most importantly, expensive medications that are essential to healing.  But the good news is that, thanks to charitable gifts, Barnes-Jewish Hospital has special funds to make sure these transplant patients get the help they need to stay healthy!

Every gift for patient care and social services means that our hospital can help patients like Sam Parker*, a 37-year-old kidney transplant patient who works to support his three teenage children.  When his health insurance did not fully cover the cost of his medication, we were able to give Sam a two-week supply to cover his need until he could be enrolled in a prescription program.  He didn’t miss his vital medications because people cared enough to give!

In honor of National Donate Life Month, I send deep and humble thanks to organ donors and their families for making the ultimate gift.  And I thank all who give to the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation so that our hospital can continue to provide the extra help needed by some patients to heal after each transplant.

Here’s what Jim Hoerchler, social work manager, had to say about the huge difference gifts for social services make in patient’s lives:

* Name changed for patient’s privacy.

-Noël Schiber, Donor Relations Manager



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