Patient Testimonials

Melissa Masse

On July 23, Melissa Masse celebrated her 34th birthday in the operating room of Penn State Hershey, watching Dr. Riaz Shah hold up a kidney while the medical team sang "Happy Birthday." Earlier that morning, doctors had harvested a kidney from her husband, Chris, and sent it to a major metropolitan area where it would be given to someone as unknown to the Masses as the donor whose organ became a birthday present for Melissa.

The surgeries were just two links in a complex transplant chain that allowed four people to receive healthy kidneys despite not having compatible live donors.

Known as a "kidney swap," Penn State Hershey offers the program as an alternative to dialysis and years of waiting for a deceased donor organ. Click here to read the Masses's story on Penn State Medicine online.

Chris, Melissa, and Katie Masse in the Garden of Life at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, August 2013

Central Pennsylvania's First Living Donor Liver Transplant

Surgeons at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center performed central Pennsylvania’s first adult living-donor liver transplant, a highly specialized and effective treatment for patients suffering from end-stage liver disease, on Jestine Reider and John Kreider, brother and sister from Elizabethtown, Pa. The surgery was performed by the liver transplant surgery team on Tuesday, July 29, at Penn State Hershey Medical Center -- the only Medicare-approved center for liver transplantation in central Pennsylvania and one of only three hospitals in Pennsylvania to offer this procedure.

Jestine Reider donated the right side of her liver to her brother, John Kreider, also a resident of Elizabethtown. John Kreider was on the liver transplant waiting list for 14 months.

"I never questioned my decision about becoming a living donor to John," said Jestine Reider, living liver donor. "To even be compatible was just amazing and to be able to save my brother’s life -- what more could I do? The cookie just crumbled like I wanted it to. It was meant to be."

In a living donor liver transplant, a portion of the liver is obtained from a healthy donor -- in most cases a spouse, family member or close friend -- and transplanted into the recipient. The donor operation usually lasts approximately six hours. The operation for the liver recipient can last between eight and 12 hours. The liver is the only organ in the body that can regenerate to normal function and size within approximately one to two months.

"John Kreider was suffering from complications of his liver disease known as primary sclerosing cholangitis," said Zakiyah Kadry, chief of the division of transplant surgery and surgical director of liver transplantation and the live donor liver transplant program at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. "His blood group is O where the waiting time is very long as compared to other blood group patients on the waiting list. He was becoming progressively more jaundiced in spite of the biliary stents being placed by our gastroenterologists, and the risk with his liver disease was either the development of biliary cancer or a severe -- possibly fatal -- infection of his liver known as acute cholangitis."

In the United States, the demand for donor organs continues to exceed that of supply. Currently there are more than 16,000 patients registered on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) waiting list for a liver organ and only 6,000 to 6,500 liver transplants are being performed annually. In Pennsylvania, nearly 1,300 candidates are on the liver transplant waiting list. According to the UNOS database, between 1,500 and 2,000 candidates on the liver transplant waiting list die each year while waiting for a liver organ. While living liver donor numbers are limited as donor safety is the primary concern, the procedure provides at least 200 to 300 additional liver transplants annually.

Penn State Hershey Medical Center has a rigorous multidisciplinary selection process to ensure the absolute safety of the donor and recipient. The center has opted to proceed with a live donor liver transplant program for specific categories of patients on the waiting list that have a higher-than-average risk of being unable to receive a liver transplant in a timely manner, such as blood group O recipients or patients with recurrent significant complications of their liver disease that place them at risk without improving their chances of receiving a liver transplant on the current liver allocation system.

Penn State Hershey Medical Center is UNOS certified for live donor liver transplantation. Kadry has extensive experience as both a liver transplant and hepatobiliary surgeon and has performed and published on the topic of live donor liver transplantation. She leads an interdisciplinary team of transplant surgeons, anesthesiologists, hepatologists, pre- and post-transplant coordinators, nurses, social workers, transplant pharmacists and nutritionists who all are actively involved in transplant patients’ care.

Anyone who may be considering living liver donation or who would like more information about living donor liver transplantation at Penn State Hershey Medical Center should call 717-531-5002, or click here to visit online.

Central Pennsylvania's First Living Donor Liver Transplant