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Kidney Transplants Now Available At Sacred Heart


Sacred Heart Health System and University of Florida Health formally announce a new kidney transplant program in Northwest Florida – just over a month after the first such procedure was performed here.

Forty-seven-year-old Renwick Avant received a kidney on February 2, more than seven years after being diagnosed with end-stage renal disease, and four years after beginning dialysis treatments.

“I started dialysis January 15, 2013; I remember the day,” said Avant. “Three days a week, I was on the dialysis machine for three hours and 45 minutes each time.”

Avant, a storekeeper at Gulf Power Company, likens the treatment to “having a second job” because it’s so time-consuming.

“At first, I started out doing my treatment at five o’clock in the evening, and get away about ten o’clock at night,” Avant said. “Then I started coming in a bit earlier – about 3:30 for the past year or so. It didn’t really affect me too much because I would go home, go to sleep and go to work the next day.”

Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
Renwick Avant, Sacred Heart Health System's 1st kidney transplant recipient.

“When I first met Mr. Renwick Avant, he came in for his transplant evaluation and the first thing he said was ‘I want to be the first transplant at Sacred Heart Hospital,’” said Dr. Doug Keith, a nephrologist – kidney specialist -- at Sacred Heart Health System.

“I was really struck by that; it takes a great deal of courage on his part to put his faith in our hands,” Keith said. “We’re a new program, we had no track record, and he said, ‘No, I want to be the first one.’”

Avant transferred to Sacred Heart last November, one month after the local transplant program was launche, in hopes of cutting down his wait. The average waiting period for a kidney in the Southeast is 73 months, according to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients.

Performing the surgery was Dr. Rick Stevens, who also broke some new ground in the field of kidney transplantation.

“The key thing we did in starting our program is we actually applied safety systems approaches to build our program,” said Stevens. “And I think it showed in the first three cases that we did. They sent so smoothly.”

Also on hand was Dr. Michael Good, an anesthesiologist who serves on the Board of Directors for UF Health Shands. He provided a history lesson of sorts. UF Health performed the first kidney transplant in Florida in 1966; the first live donor transplant three years later, and the first simultaneous kidney-pancreas transplant in 1995.

“Doing transplants raises the bar for our organization in terms of the quality of care that you provide across the board; not just in the operating room,” said Sacred Heart President and CEO Susan Davis.

Davis – a nurse by training – says they are blessed by a community that believes in the work done there, and a valuable partner in UF Health.

“While this has been a longtime dream, dreams don’t come true without people helping you along the way,” Davis said. “It’s about a celebration of partnerships.”

More information is available at www.sacred-heart.org/kidney-transplant.