Emory Transplant Team Performs Georgia's 1st Triple Organ Transplant

November 2012

When she was seven-weeks old, Stephanie Lindstrom was diagnosed with tricuspid atresia with a ventricular septum defect. The following week, she underwent the first of a series of five heart surgeries that would intermittently interrupt her life. After the performance of the fifth procedure in December 2009 at Emory, she learned that her heart could not withstand another procedure and that she would eventually need a transplant. She was in her mid-thirties, married and had two young children.

As time went on Ms. Lindstrom's health worsened and was further complicated by the development of cirrhosis. Her Emory Healthcare cardiologist Dr. Wendy Book approached Emory chief of transplantation Dr. Stuart Knechtle and his liver transplant team. "Dr. Book asked if we would consider participating in a combined heart-liver transplant with (Emory cardiac surgeons) Dr. Brian Kogon and Dr. David Vega," says Dr. Knechtle. "We agreed, and Ms. Lindstrom went through the transplant evaluation process." 

By September 2011, she was on the transplant waiting list for a heart and liver. With the progression of her illness a new kidney became necessary as well, and by May 2012 her heart began failing and she had to enter Emory University Hospital. For this entire period, there was never any assurance that Ms. Lindstrom would get the organs she needed. "Her resilience was inspiring," says Dr. Knechtle, "and the outstanding support she received from her family reinforced her will to hold on."

After Ms. Lindstrom reached the point of requiring 24 hour ventilator and renal support in the ICU, a heart, liver and kidney became available from a single donor. On July 7, 2012, she underwent a combined heart-liver procedure, with Drs. Kogon and Vega performing the heart transplant, and Drs. Knechtle and Andrew Adams the liver. The next day, Drs. Knechtle and Adams performed her renal transplantation.

Following a favorable course of in-hospital recovery and rehabilitation, Ms. Lindstrom has returned home to Greer, South Carolina. Her new heart, liver, and kidney are functioning well, and she has been able to resume a degree of normal activity and interaction that has been missing from her life for some time. "I am just so thankful for everything that I can do, like eat normal food, do homework with my daughter and play cars and trucks with my son," she says.

In addition to great appreciation for the successful outcome of a procedure that has minimal precedent, Dr. Knechtle is extremely thankful for the efforts of all of the Emory personnel involved with Ms. Lindstrom's transplants and her recovery phase. "To make something like this happen requires so much more than just surgery," he says. "Of course, it all begins with the gift made by the donor and donor's family, and for that we will be forever grateful. Then, there are the anesthesiologists, perfusionists, OR nurses, and other staff who performed their various skills tirelessly, efficiently, and without complaint for what amounted to hours in the OR. After that, we have the critical care teams, cardiologists, hepatologists, nephrologists, and nurses that worked to help Ms. Lindstrom realize her goal of returning home. They regularly put the welfare of the patient above all else, and I salute them."