Erlanger kidney transplant program celebrates 25 years - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Erlanger kidney transplant program celebrates 25 years

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -  The first kidney transplant in the region took place on this day in 1989 when a mother donated a kidney to her daughter.

It took a team of more than 30 medical professionals at Erlanger Hospital to make it happen.

“It was kind of a long day, a lot of stress. But at the end of the day, it was all good,” Doctor Dan Fisher said.

Twenty-five years later, Fisher and his team at the UT Erlanger Kidney Transplant Program have performed more than 550 transplants.

“I have a sense of normalcy that I didn't have for almost two years,” Johnny Hennen said.

Hennen is one of those patients. He spent two years on dialysis; something he describes as a physical and mental prison.

“Knowing you're tied to that and the lack of energy that you're going to spend three plus days a week tied to a machine for five hours having your blood taken out and filtered back in,” he said.

Eighteen years ago, he underwent the surgery that saved his life.

The program at Erlanger is one of the best in the nation. They boast shorter wait times and patient outcomes.

Doctors joined medical professionals and transplant recipients Tuesday to highlight the program's success and discuss where it's going.

“There's a lot of need in this community for transplants, like liver transplants. We are looking to see what we can do in that area,” Erlanger Health System Executive Vice President Robert Brooks said.

For this doctor, heading one of the best programs in the region is something to celebrate.

“I'd like to think that looking back on it 25 years later, that Erlanger Hospital as an institution and Chattanooga as a city can look back and say it was all well worthwhile,” Dr. Fisher said.

The kidney transplant program is also expanding. Leaders introduced a new transplant administrator and say they are looking into a kidney swap program.

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