Did Jonathan get his wish?

November 7, 2011

A little over a year ago, we interviewed a young man who was very sick. He was on the transplant list, hoping to receive not only a new kidney, but also a new heart.

As our coworker Scott mentioned last week, Jonathan scored a “hat trick” when it comes to hearts. He’s had three – the one he was born with, a second one transplanted while he was still a baby, and his third one, which he received last year.

The term “hat trick” was made popular in the United States by way of hockey. It is used to describe a positive feat three times during a game. In the game of life, Jonathan has scored three times with three hearts.

It’s also fitting to use the term hat trick as hockey is something Jonathan loves to play. As he got sicker over the years, shortness of breath and tiredness made him take a time out from playing non-contact hockey.

Jonathan and his family are making a special trip to the hospital tomorrow, where they will be reunited with members of his care team – nurses, coordinators, physicians and more. He was a “regular” in the ICU for many weeks prior to his transplant, and as many transplant patients and families can attest to, you really get to know your caregivers on an intimate level, especially when you’re preparing for a transplant, let alone two.

It will be a special reunion for the caregivers as well – many of them don’t get to see their patients after they’ve received their transplants.

The big question is, did Jonathan get his wish to play hockey again? We’ll be filming the reunion and will have an answer for you later this week – in the meantime, get to know this special guy in the video below:


Kidney transplant patient Jack spends every day thankful for his gift

September 9, 2011

Jack Lusk knows how lucky he is, and spends each day thankful to be able to spend time with his wife & family and doing the things he loves to do.

We went to film Jack’s story at his house, and as soon as we walked in the door we could feel the positive energy. Jack and his wife greeted us with smiles and open arms, and they were eager to tell the story of how they ended up at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and talk about the kind of care they both received.

Jack came to Barnes-Jewish Hospital due to kidney failure – his diabetes had ravaged his kidneys. After years of dialysis his physicians decided that he was a candidate for a kidney transplant.

One of the things that Jack talked about was how he didn’t think he would ever get off of dialysis. Due to his age, he thought he was too old to qualify for a transplant. However, if there’s anything we’ve come to understand about organ transplant, it’s that while age is a factor, it’s not the ONLY factor. Transplant candidates go through a series of medical tests and evaluations and they must meet certain criteria in order to qualify for being put on the transplant list.

Jack went through the steps, and it was determined that he was a good candidate for a transplant.

He’s since recovered, and is living life to the fullest. Like many transplant patients, Jack sees his new kidney as a gift, and a second chance at life. And he’s making the most of every waking minute of that second chance.

Check out his story below – you’ll be glad you did.


When having diabetes is all you’ve ever known, waking up without it can feel like a miracle

September 8, 2011

Danielle Scheetz was five when she was diagnosed with diabetes. Over the next six years she dealt with the disease, until at the age of 11 when her doctor gave her some terrible news – her kidneys were failing. Danielle would need a kidney transplant in order to survive.

With the help of her doctor, she and her father chose Barnes-Jewish as the transplant hospital. One fateful day, her pre-transplant coordinator called and said that Dr. Jason Wellen, Surgical Director of Kidney Transplant and Kidney/Pancreas Transplant, had a kidney and pancreas waiting for her.

When she woke up from surgery, she was told her blood sugars were normal and she didn’t have diabetes any longer.

In one day, the disease she had lived with for as long as she could remember was gone.

That’s a pretty good thing to hear.


Kidney Transplant – A Son’s Gift of Life to his Mother Pt 3

August 11, 2011

Since the day of their surgery,  July 7, 2011, Steven and Edith have been doing really well. During our first day of shooting they were telling me about all the plans they had to travel together after Edith’s first year of getting healthy with her new kidney. Together they plan to go to England and Ireland, and Edith wants to go to Japan and Hawaii on trips with her daughter-in-law and her daughter.

After the successful transplant, Edith and Steven have been ambassadors for educating others about organ donation. Steven reads and shares Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s Rare Gift blog on his Facebook page and Edith plans to go back to her dialysis center to spread the word about living donors.

As Dr. Jason Wellen said, that happy and joyous time of transplant surgery is “rare in the medical field.” There are many families still waiting on their loved one to get the organ they need but it is great to see Edith with her life back and Steven gearing up for a new school year at a new school.

Thank you, Steven and Edith, for allowing me to capture all of this and help you tell your story. Thank you all for reading and watching. For more information about becoming a kidney donor, please visit the Barnes-Jewish Kidney Transplant site.

-Rachel Lee

A Son’s Gift of Life to his Mother – Pt 2

August 3, 2011


It’s a heavy word but sometimes it’s the only appropriate word to use. Steven Pursely is a hero. Over four days of shooting for this documentary, I met several people who were directly involved in Steven and Edith’s care during their transplant surgeries. The nurses, patient care technicians, transplant coordinators, surgeons, renal specialists and secretaries all  worked together seamlessly to give Steven the opportunity to save his mother’s life.

As I finished editing part two I was really amazed at all of the team members in the rooms, all of the smiling faces and steady hands who if even for just 15 minutes were making sure Steven and Edith were going to be ok.  I saw Dr. Surendra Shenoy and his team harvest Steven’s kidney and Dr. Jason Wellen and his team place Steven’s kidney in Edith, but the images in video will never compare to the feeling of being in the operating room.

I’ve always been fascinated with the abilities of those in the healthcare field. Caring for people when they are at their most vulnerable is truly a calling because it is not an easy task. Following Steven and Edith on their journey reinforced my admiration for doctors, nurses and surgeons, and also introduced me to instrumental team members such as patient care technicians, patient transporters, administrators, coordinators and so many more. The amount of teamwork it took for Steven and his mother to have a successful patient experience was more than I could have ever imagined, and they were just two people with one situation.

I was sincerely happy and grateful for the care they gave my friend and his mother and for that, they are all heroes to me.

-Rachel Lee

What does color have to do with transplant?

July 26, 2011

As a nephrologist here at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Dr. Daniel Brennan gets to see many patients who are struggling with kidney issues. If you ask him what he likes most about his job, he says it’s the transformation he sees after his patients have a kidney transplant– especially when it comes to color and mood.

Dialysis can cause hyperpigmentation in a patient, which causes the patient’s skin color to actually look grayish or metallic due to excess urochromes in the system. A kidney transplant can expel the urochromes, and the skin returns to the healthy pink it once was prior to the dialysis.

Dialysis can take a toll on the mindset of a patient, and can often cause depression. After a transplant, the patient’s mood is elevated due to their improved health, and this contributes to a quicker recovery.

Take a listen to what else Dr. Brennan has to say about being a nephrologist at one of the top hospitals in the nation:


A Heartfelt Thanks

May 12, 2011

Jonathan Sadowski, a very brave young man, received a heart & kidney transplant last April. He was the first patient at Barnes-Jewish Hospital to receive this type of combined transplant. He wrote a letter in which he tells his story and personally thanks his surgeons. We thought you might like to read it.

In one month I will celebrate one year with my new heart and kidney.

It was April of last year when I was diagnosed once again with congestive heart failure along with failing kidneys. I would be put on dialysis for one month – it was a very hard thing to go through. I remember my mom always telling me about people who went through dialysis and what it was like and how it affected you. Well, I experienced it and let me tell you it was not fun at all. I was in and out of the hospital a lot, but the final time my cardiologist walked into the room and told me that I was not going home until I received a kidney and heart transplant.

I was devastated. Having a failing heart and kidney was not fun. I would wake up in the middle of the night because I couldn’t breathe – I felt like sometimes it would be my last breath. They would use something called a bi-PAP machine which did my breathing for me and kept my lungs and heart working but that wasn’t enough. I still struggled to breathe, got sick a lot and couldn’t eat. I had all kinds of IVs and monitors, which made for a  very long month.

But on June 2nd, my cardiologist came in, smiled, looked me in the eyes and said “I have good news. We found a heart and kidney for you.” When I heard those words come out of his mouth it was like an angel came down from heaven and said, “I want you to live through this, so here you go, here’s a kidney and a heart for you.”

At 7 p.m. I was rolled into the OR where they performed a five-hour operation to put my new healthy heart into me, and then hours later I was rolled back in to have a kidney implanted and have my life saved once again by these combined transplants.

I want to thank my surgeons, Dr. Jason Wellen and Dr. I-Wen Wang, for their hard work in saving my life. Thank you guys so much for all the work you did for me and my family so they could see me again.

-Jonathan Sadowski



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