VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System (VAPHS) and UPMC partnered to perform VA’s first living-donor liver transplant, in which a portion of a healthy person’s liver is transplanted to someone in need of a liver.
Army veteran Timothy Yablonski received a portion of liver from his daughter, Alyssa Last. Both transplant surgeries were completed at UPMC in mid-March.
One of 13 VA transplant centers, VA Pittsburgh performs in-house liver, kidney and living-donor kidney transplants and now collaborates with UPMC for living-donor liver transplants and small bowel transplants. VA Pittsburgh is the only VA medical center in the nation that now accepts living-donor liver transplant and small bowel transplant referrals. Mr. Yablonski’s surgery at UPMC marks the first time any VA in the nation has participated in a living-donor liver transplant.
“UPMC has a long history of collaboration and support for VA Pittsburgh and its transplant program. We are proud to offer lifesaving liver transplants to veterans both in our region, and across the country,” said Abhinav Humar, MD, chief of transplantation at UPMC and an affiliated faculty member of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
At UPMC, living-donor liver transplant is the first-line option rather than the last resort for patients. According to Dr. Humar, just 5% of all transplants across the country are living donors, while 60% at UPMC are from a living donor. As the most experienced living-donor liver transplant program in the country, UPMC transplant surgeons have saved the lives of hundreds of patients who might have otherwise died while waiting.
Mr. Yablonski lives in New York and receives care at the Syracuse VA Medical Center (VAMC). Ms. Last lives in Florida and although she is not a veteran, she is eligible for transplant follow-up care at the West Palm Beach VAMC. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) also provides post-transplant care to veterans who have received a transplant at a non-VA medical facility either through dual care or primary care arrangements.
“As soon as we found out he was able to receive a living-donor liver transplant, I wanted to help,” said Ms. Last. “I was the first one who applied and was evaluated for it.”
“It made me feel incredible that my daughter wanted to support me,” said Mr. Yablonski. “What my doctor told me after the transplant is my daughter kept me alive.”
All veterans enrolled for VA health care are eligible for consideration for transplant services. VA transplant centers are designed specifically for veterans and their specific health care needs. VA policies support travel benefits, transplant procedures and follow-up care. VA also uses Clinical Video Telehealth (CVT) to expedite evaluations and follow-up transplant care while allowing veterans to save on travel time and costs.
For more information on transplant services at VA Pittsburgh and UPMC, visit:
Illustration: UPMC/VA Health System.