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Bob Shoup - Heart and Kidney RecipientNancy Matthews - Double Lung Recipient

Transplantation Patient Stories

At UPMC, our dedicated team of transplant experts takes pride in providing a seamless experience to many patients each year as they make their way through the transplant journey.

Below is a collection of our transplant patients who felt compelled to talk about their truly comprehensive care at UPMC.

Please Note: These patients' treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.

Liver Transplant

Denise Bursey

Denise had a Caesarian section when she gave birth to her son. The doctors severed one of her arteries during the Caesarian and she needed 14 blood transfusions. Twenty years later, Denise was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and Hepatitis C, which she contracted from the blood transfusions so many years ago. She received a new liver in July of 2004, and life has been good ever since.


Read Denise's Story>>


Susan Sher

In 1980, Susan was diagnosed with primary biliary cirrhosis and in need of a transplant. Her husband, Dr. Stephan Sher, met with transplant surgeon Dr. Starzl to tell him about his wife. Dr. Starzl quickly arranged for Susan to come to UPMC for a liver transplant and try cyclosporine, an antirejection drug that was experimental at the time. After she received her new liver, she appeared on the Today Show with Dr. Starzl and Dr. Borel on the day cyclosporine was approved. Thirty years later, she still writes to Dr. Starzl on her anniversary of her transplant.


Read Susan's Story>>


Lung Transplant

Gary Cunningham


In the spring of 2010, Gary Cunningham was cutting his grass for the first time of the season when he began experiencing shortness of breath and became fatigued. After his symptoms persisted Gary went to his primary care physician and was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) – a serious lung disease that causes scarring or stiffening of the lungs without a known cause.


On March 4, 2013, Gary became the first patient at UPMC to receive a “breathing lung” transplant through the Transmedics® Organ Care SystemTM (OCS) Lung machine. The OCS Lung is a perfusion machine that provides the lungs with oxygen, blood, and a special solution that protects the lungs from contamination. UPMC was the first health system on the East Coast to use this device.


Read Gary's Story>>


Bob Dolence

Double Lung

Bob lost all hopes after being diagnosed with pulmonary sarcoidosis and congestive heart failure. His life was changed when he reunited with a college friend that turned out to be a pulmonologist at UPMC. After getting a lung transplant at UPMC in 2006, Bob found hope again in life and returned to work and physical activities. He started bicycling and walking, and in 2008 he walked 1,000 documented miles – 3.5 miles a day, six days a week.


Read Bob's Story>>


Jason Gregg

Double Lung

In June 2008, Jason Gregg was told he had only two years to live. Battling cystic fibrosis and serious pulmonary hypertension, Jason traveled from Charleston, S.C. to Pittsburgh to undergo double lung transplant at UPMC. He now plays soccer on an adult team, and he has written a book and created a website that helps people cope and thrive when they have hidden disabilities and chronic illnesses.


Read Jason's Story>>


Nancy Matthews

Double Lung

Born with Cystic Fibrosis in Jackson, Wyo., Nancy was considered the “Miracle Mountain Baby” for having uncommonly healthy lungs for someone with the disease. Her lungs worsened as years went by, and when she contracted B. cepacia, only two transplant centers in the United States could treat her condition, one of which is UPMC. After Nancy received her new lungs in December of 2008, she wrote her second book: a guide to coping with chronic and terminal illness.


Read Nancy's Story>>


John Sullivan

Right lung, double lung, and kidney

John’s lung problems began in 1981 when he was diagnosed with Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a rare disease that slowly destroys the lung. After a long wait, John had his first right-lung transplant in 1991 at UPMC Presbyterian. But he continued to suffer lung problems, and in 1997 his kidneys began to fail. He returned to UPMC for a double-lung transplant, and in 2000 he had a kidney transplant. Now he exercises five to six days a week, and visits UPMC Presbyterian every Monday to share his story to transplant candidates and answer their questions.


Read John's Story>>


Heart Transplant

Phyllis Esau


In 1995, Phyllis Esau was undergoing chemotherapy to battle breast cancer. She was able to successfully beat the disease, but shortly thereafter she began noticing it was hard to carry things, she had shortness of breath, and she was tired. Her oncologist referred her to a cardiologist.


Phyllis first saw her cardiologist in 1998. After undergoing initial tests, she was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy.  Over time, her disease progressed and it was determined she would need a heart transplant.


Read Phyllis' Story>>


Bob Shoup

Two hearts and kidney

At the young age of 27, Bob was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and underwent his first heart transplant in 1986 at UPMC Presbyterian. However, 15 years later in 2001, Bob was placed on the waiting list a second time due to his arteries being completely blocked. He received his second heart in October of 2001, and a kidney from his brother in 2004 after his kidneys started to fail. Bob attributes his success to his UPMC doctors and nurses, and he wouldn’t want to go anywhere else for health-related problems.


Read Bob's Story>>


Tom Meshanko


Tom had five bypasses, a defibrillator, a pacemaker, a mitral valve replacement, and four implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICD) between 1997 and 2009. His ordeal finally ended when he received a new heart in June of 2009. Tom returned to his normal activities in just six weeks after surgery. Recently, he participated in the Transplant Games of America, where he finished a 5K run in less than one hour, won a silver medal in bowling, and gold medals in table tennis and tennis.


Read Tom's Story>>


Mary Ann Wahl


Mary Ann struggled to raise her daughter Katy due to restrictive cardiomyopathy, a disorder in which the heart chambers are unable to fill properly with blood and eventually leads to heart failure. After being on the waiting list for approximately two years, she finally received her new heart in November of 2001. Mary Ann could finally focus on raising her daughter without worrying about her health. As a dietitian at UPMC Presbyterian, she is inspired to use her experience to educate patients to adopt a low-sodium diet to prevent heart diseases.


Read Mary Ann's Story>>


Ben Collins


Ben was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and ventricular tachycardia during his sophomore year at the University of Pittsburgh. He underwent surgery to receive an automatic implantable cardioverter defibrillator (AICD) in order to treat irregular heartbeats. He lived a normal life for two years until he was readmitted into UPMC Presbyterian before college graduation and stayed there until his heart transplant in November of 1997. Since his transplant, Ben has taken up running and has participated in many races, including the Pittsburgh Great Race and the Baltimore Marathon.


Read Ben's Story>>

Kidney/Pancreas Transplant

Randy and Nick Martini

Living Donor Kidney Transplant

Randy Martini had a history of heart disease and after a quadruple bypass in 2005, his cardiologist kept a close eye on him. As time went on, Randy developed high blood pressure and diabetes. His cardiologist recommended that he see a kidney specialist, also known as a nephrologist.


Over time, his nephrologist noticed that his kidneys were slowly deteriorating. Randy did not want to go on dialysis if it could be avoided and discussed kidney transplantation with his doctor.


Read Randy and Nick's Story>>


Jerry Ivory

Kidney recipient

Jerry has a genetic disease called polycystic kidney disease, which destroys the kidneys slowly over many years. Nobody in his immediate family qualified to be his donor, so he stayed on the waiting list for more than three years until Steve Fields from Oklahoma gave Jerry a call. He flew to Pittsburgh in 2012 to get to know Jerry before donating one of his kidneys to him. Since the surgery, Jerry has made a full recovery and has become close with Steve.


Read Jerry's Story>>


Kathy and Courtney Bost

Kidney donors

When her husband was in need of a kidney transplant, Kathy was more than willing to donate one of her kidneys to him. After having part of her liver removed in July of 2011 due to a preexisting condition, her kidney was successfully transplanted into her husband in September of 2011. The couple made a full recovery and appreciates this unique experience that they will always share. 

Read Kathy's Story>>

Courtney, Kathy’s sister, was also in a similar situation – her husband also needed a kidney transplant. Kathy convinced the couple to come to UPMC for treatment, and in June of 2012, Courtney donated one of her kidneys to her husband. As a sign of appreciation, Courtney’s husband gave her a necklace made in the shape of kidneys, with precious stone in the middle of it. 

Read Courtney's Story>>

Intestinal Transplant and Rehabilitation

Jennifer Alley Smith

Small bowel

At seven years old, Jennifer was diagnosed with intestinal pseudo-obstruction, a condition in which the small bowel can’t function properly and absorb nutrients. Her doctors put her on a permanent intravenous solution of total parenteral nutrition (TPN), but that didn’t work. At 21 years old, she moved from Atlanta, Ga. to Pittsburgh for a small bowel transplant at UPMC. Now Jennifer is eating regular food and leading a regular life. She also became the first adult small bowel transplant recipient to give natural birth to a healthy baby.


Read Jennifer's Story>>

Deena Shneider

Intestinal, surgical rehabilitation

Deena was overweight all of her life, but a gastric bypass surgery in 2003 helped her lose weight. But after two years she was rushed to the hospital and had emergency surgery for a strangulated bowel, a complication of bypass surgery. She was put on total parenteral nutrition (TPN) for the following three-and-a-half years, but TPN was causing her liver to fail. That’s when she was referred to UPMC to have surgical rehabilitation. After surgery, she finally got off TPN and went home after a week. She wears a necklace that says “I believe in miracles” every day to remind herself how far she has come.


Read Deena's Story>>

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