“This extraordinary story gives hope to so many as we were able to change the lives of two of our patients because of one deceased donor,” said Michael J. Goldstein M.D., FACS, interim chief of Transplantation; director, Kidney & Pancreas Transplantation; and director, Pediatric Abdominal Transplantation at Hackensack University Medical Center. “We are so thankful that we are able to see Kasan have an opportunity for growth and development as a healthy child, and watch Amy become insulin-free for the first time in 45 years.”
Kasan Robinson’s kidney disease was identified in utero when his mother, Cassandra, was at a prenatal appointment. After his birth, Kasan was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for four months and underwent multiple surgeries before being referred to the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center for dialysis to care for his renal failure and complex developmental abnormalities. He was evaluated and listed for a kidney transplant at Hackensack University Medical Center.
“Advances in the techniques of dialysis for young children have enabled us to care for even the smallest infants,” said Kenneth Lieberman, M.D., chief, Pediatric Nephrology, Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital. “In order for our patients to grow up with all of the experiences of healthy children, it is the ability of specialized centers such as ours to give them a new kidney that is truly a modern medical miracle.
Kasan’s family continued to hope for a donor kidney. Then after waiting for more than two years, in early May of this year, the call came - there was a suitable kidney for him.
“Kasan, despite all that he has faced with surgeries and dialysis in his six years, he is known as the ‘Rockstar’ of the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital. His smile and warm heart light up the room,” said Kimberly Ludwig, RN, BSN, nurse manager, Pediatric Intensive Care/General Pediatrics, Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital. “The entire team celebrated along with him when we found out that this kidney was a match for him.”
When the Robinson family got the call that Kasan would be receiving a kidney, the family was overwhelmed at first. But, when it became apparent that it was really happening, the Robinson family celebrated. The stress of taking a young child in for surgeries and dialysis is now a memory for the family.
“I’m glad he’ll be able to go to school regularly, have a normal life and do the things that all kids can do,” said Cassandra Robinson, mother of Kasan. “We are so lucky to have had the team at Hackensack University Medical Center. Everyone here truly cares about Kasan and his future.”
“After his transplant, Kasan is more vibrant, alert and talkative. He brightens the day for our entire team and many of our patients when he visits us for post-transplant care. He was walking around smiling, laughing and saying hi to all of his new friends just seven days after his transplant,” said Dr. Goldstein.
At the same time, the deceased donor who had provided Kasan a kidney also had donated a pancreas for Amy Didner, marking the first pancreas transplant performed by the Hackensack University Medical Center Organ Transplantation Department since the development of the pancreas program in 2017. Amy lived as a type 1 diabetic for more than 45 years and had already received a kidney transplant due to kidney failure in 2015. Amy’s Type 1 Diabetes was diagnosed when she was eight and a half years old and she faced erratic blood sugars and poor health ever since.
“Throughout my teenage years, I suffered from depression because of having to manage this disease and constantly worrying about my sugars. I just wanted to get rid of my diabetes. When I heard a pancreas transplant would do that, I was very excited,” said Amy.
“It is significant that not only is this the first pancreas transplant at Hackensack University Medical Center since the transplant program has reopened, but that Amy is the recipient of this gift.,” said Larry B. Melton, M.D., medical director Organ Transplant, Hackensack University Medical Center. “Amy has now entered a new era, free of needles and insulin, liberated from episodes of extreme and unpredictable variability in her blood sugars. She now has essentially a normal life, something she has not seen in decades. And this all because of the unselfish generosity of a donor who gave the Gift of Life.”
When Amy and her husband Jason heard that Hackensack University Medical Center developed a Pancreas Transplant program, they immediately asked to have Amy put on the list in April 2018. After just a month, Amy received the call that she was a match.
“Dr. Goldstein said it could take up to six months or more, but it was barely a month when we got the call,” recalls Amy. “It was hard to fathom, but I said ok let’s do this. I can’t wait to have a normal life, getting back to work as a special education teacher and not letting blood sugar run my life.”
“Congratulations to the entire Organ Transplant team on the first pancreas transplant since the development of the program and also a successful pediatric kidney transplant,” said Ihor S. Sawczuk, M.D., FACS, president, Hackensack University Medical Center and president of the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital. “I am proud of the comprehensive and personalized care that is provided by this world-class team.”
The Organ Transplantation Division at Hackensack University Medical Center performs adult kidney, pancreas, and simultaneous kidney/pancreas, and pediatric kidney transplant surgeries and provides all necessary services to support and guide patients through the transplantation experience. As one of only a few certified transplant centers in New Jersey, the center provides complete pre-transplant evaluation, surgical services, and post-operative care. Along with board-certified physicians, a team of transplant nurses and other professionals work closely with you and your family.
To learn more about transplant services, call 551-996-2608 or visit www.hackensackumc.org/services/organ-transplants/
High Res photos available upon request
Members of the Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center team and patient pictured from right to left:
Front row: Jaclyn McKeen, clinical pharmacist; Alan Stephens, surgical resident; Ritu
Chib-Eiven, transplant social worker; Kathleen Murdock, living donor coordinator; Megan Weinman, nurse specialist, Urology & Solid Organ Transplant; Kasan Robinson, kidney transplant pediatric patient; Michael J. Goldstein M.D., FACS, interim chief of Transplantation; director, Kidney & Pancreas Transplantation; and director, Pediatric Abdominal Transplantation; and Mark Siegel, MD., chief, Pediatric Clinical Care.
Back row: Freda Martin, lead transplant social worker; Michael Wynd, clinical pharmacist; and Benjamin Schleich, transplant quality analyst, PI advisor.About Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center
Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center, a 781-bed nonprofit teaching and research hospital located in Bergen County, NJ, is the largest provider of inpatient and outpatient services in the state. Founded in 1888 as the county’s first hospital, it is now part of one of the largest networks in the state comprised of 33,000 team members and more than 6,500 physicians. Hackensack University Medical Center was listed as the number one hospital in New Jersey in U.S. News & World Report’s 2017-18 Best Hospital rankings - maintaining its place atop the NJ rankings since the rating system was introduced. It was also named one of the top four New York Metro Area hospitals. Hackensack University Medical Center is one of only five major academic medical centers in the nation to receive Healthgrades America’s 50 Best Hospitals Award for five or more years in a row. Becker’s Hospital Review recognized Hackensack University Medical Center as one of the 100 Great Hospitals in America 2018. The medical center is one of the top 25 green hospitals in the country according to Practice Greenhealth, and received 25 Gold Seals of Approval™ by The Joint Commission – more than any other hospital in the country. It was the first hospital in New Jersey and second in the nation to become a Magnet® recognized hospital for nursing excellence; receiving its fifth consecutive designation in 2014. Hackensack University Medical Center has created an entire campus of award-winning care, including: the John Theurer Cancer Center; the Heart & Vascular Hospital; and the Sarkis and Siran Gabrellian Women’s and Children’s Pavilion, which houses the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital and Donna A. Sanzari Women’s Hospital, which was designed with The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center and listed on the Green Guide’s list of Top 10 Green Hospitals in the U.S. Hackensack University Medical Center is the Hometown Hospital of the New York Giants and the New York Red Bulls and is Official Medical Services Provider to The Northern Trust PGA Golf Tournament. It remains committed to its community through fundraising and community events especially the Tackle Kids Cancer Campaign providing much needed research at the Children’s Cancer Institute housed at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital. To learn more, visit www.HackensackUMC.org.