Publication:Chattanooga Times Free Press; Date:Sep 30, 2009; Section:Front Page; Page Number:1

Transplant center honors extended lives

By Emily Bregel

Online: Hear Rachel Farmer discuss her kidney transplant 19 years ago. Read previous stories. Comment.

    For three years, Rachel Farmer, of Dalton, Ga., spent most mornings in the bathroom, nauseated and unable to keep down most foods.

    With her kidneys slowly deteriorating from a genetic condition, the organs were unable to clean toxins from her bloodstream, and the resulting fatigue and sickness were taking a toll.

    She was down to 94 pounds when, in 1990 at age 35, she received a healthy kidney from her brother Clyde Chapman in a surgery performed at the new Kidney Transplant Center at Erlanger hospital.

    Nineteen years later she’s healthy and energetic, and no one would suspect she’d had a transplant, Mrs. Farmer said. Though her brother since has died of cancer, Mrs. Farmer, now 54, said she always will feel close to him.

    “As long as I live, he’s still alive because I’ve got part of him in me,” she said Tuesday before the 20th anniversary celebration of Erlanger’s Kidney Transplant Center.
“He’s my hero.”

    Mrs. Farmer was one of a number of kidney recipients and donors who attended the Tuesday event recognizing the transplant center and its medical staff and patients.

    The center’s opening in 1989 gave a local option to patients who previously had to travel to Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville for a kidney transplant, said Dr. Daniel Fisher, surgical director of the Kidney Transplant Center.

    “It’s been a great ride. And I think we’ve helped a lot more than we haven’t helped, and for that I’m grateful,” he said after the event.

    In 20 years, the center has performed more than 520 kidney transplants.

    Dr. Fisher, who has been at the transplant center since it opened, said he has performed about 85 percent of those transplants.

    He said about 800 people in Chattanooga now are in need of kidney transplants and must undergo regular dialysis, a blood-cleansing procedure that performs the duties of a failed kidney.

    Demand for kidney services and transplants has risen over the years as chronic kidney disease has increased. The obesity epidemic, which contributes to hypertension and diabetes, is a major cause of the increase, experts say.

    The number of people with end-stage kidney failure grew from 209,000 in 1991 to 472,000 in 2004, according to a 2007 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.


    6,846: Number of kidney transplants done in Tennessee

    236: Number of kidney transplants in Tennessee in 2009

    1,811: Number on kidney waiting list in Tennessee

    86,651: Number on kidney waiting list nationally

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell This is Rachel Farmer’s 19th anniversary of receiving her brother’s kidney at Erlanger.