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  • January 12, 2019

    Triton showing is surgery scarsWhen Jessica Fritz noticed an unusual yellowing tint to her then 6-year-old son Triton’s complexion one day in 2017, she was wary of the clinicians in her town in Wyoming who were dismissing her concerns. 

    “I demanded blood work to get to the bottom of it,” says Fritz. “I just knew something wasn’t right.”

    Testing showed that Triton’s jaundiced appearance was due to a cancerous liver tumor called Rhabdomyosarcoma.  The tumor was blocking one of the ducts that usually empties bile into the liver. The tumor was so extensive it involved the pancreas as well as the liver and bile ducts. The backup of bile was turning his skin yellow.

    Triton underwent a year of chemotherapy. While his tumor responded, it would never go away completely.

    “It came back on his liver in the exact same place,” says Fritz. “We were devastated.”

    Desperate Search for a Treatment

    Fritz and her husband Daniel Fritz began to search for someone who would treat Triton’s cancer. They were running out of options. Running out of time. 

    “All of the doctors were telling us that Triton’s case was too high risk,” says Fritz. “He needed surgery, but they didn’t have the expertise to handle such a surgery. We knew the risks of not doing anything were that our son would lose his life.”

    Triton in the Hospital

    That’s when one of her physicians recommended they travel to Washington, D.C., to the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute to see its executive director, Thomas Fishbein, MD. 

    “We saw Dr. Fishbein who told us, ‘of course there is something we can do for your son,’” says Fritz.

    “Triton had a lethal tumor for which there really is no cure,” says Fishbein.  “Standard approaches could treat a tumor confined to the liver or pancreas, but never one that invaded both organs. He needed a complete liver transplant along with a very complex procedure to remove the pancreas, all without violating the tumor. We believed that if we could give him a new liver, removing at the same time his old liver, bile duct and pancreas,  Triton would have a good chance of survival. This had never been done before for such a rare tumor, but it was his only option.”

    This second part of the procedure, called a Whipple is an operation where a surgeon removes the head of the pancreas, the first part of the small intestine, the gallbladder and the bile duct. The remaining organs are then reattached to allow food to digest normally. Fortunately, as Chief of Hepatobiliary Surgery and Transplantation, Dr. Fishbein was in a unique position of performing both operations commonly.

    Traveling to MedStar Georgetown, Waiting for a New Liver 

    On November 9, 2018 Jessica Fritz, her husband and her younger son left their two other children with grandparents, traveled several hundred miles and checked Triton into MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. 

    “Our strategy was to take care of Triton and manage his medical needs, while we listed him for a liver transplant,” says Fishbein.

    Triton spent many months between MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House of Washington, D.C., where his mother and father traded days watching Triton at the hospital. 

    Caring for the Whole Family

    The timing of Triton’s hospitalization meant that the family would be separated over hundreds of miles during the holiday season.

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    “That’s where Georgetown’s amazing Child Life program kicked in,” recalls Fritz. “Triton and his younger brother attended a Grinch cupcake decorating party in early December, followed by a big party welcoming Santa right before Christmas and a Valentine’s Day craft and cupcake party. The staff treated us more like family than anything. Our younger son was included in all the fun events and that helped us feel like we were keeping the family somewhat together. Even if we were so far from home.”

    During Triton’s wait for a new liver he even landed a small role in the new commercial for MedStar Health where he is seen on camera meeting an “astronaut.”

    “Triton just thought that was hilarious, the coolest thing ever,” says Fritz.

    Triton meeting the astronaut

    The Call Comes

    Then on February 24, 2019, Triton’s parents got the call.  A liver was available.  And it was compatible with Triton’s blood type.

    The next morning, Dr. Fishbein performed the liver transplant and Whipple procedure simultaneously, removing the whole tumor and both organs intact. To add to the complexity, the liver Triton became available for was a small portion split from an adult liver, from which the other side was also transplanted into another adult patient.

    “He recovered insanely fast,” says Fritz. “He was awake two hours after surgery, he was walking around after just four days. Then we attended the St. Patrick’s Day Party, the Easter Party and a Super Heroes Party put on by the Hope for Henry Foundation.”

    Then in early April, Triton and his family returned home to Wyoming. Now, once a week, they make a five-hour trip each way to Salt Lake City, Utah for Triton’s maintenance chemo therapy.

    Triton with Dr. Kaufman and care team

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    Hope for Other Children

    “With Triton’s success, a second patient has already found our program, and is currently awaiting transplant,” says Fishbein. “As more people hear about this new treatment, I hope it will change the outlook for children across the country with this previously incurable childhood cancer.”

    Triton’s New Life

    “Triton is energetic and lively now.  He has a new lease on life because of people reaching out to him and to us.  We learned that you should never give up on your child.”

    Triton’s 43-thousand followers on his Facebook page, “Triton Tough,” have tracked his progress and his new adventures thanks to his mom who tries to post as many updates as she can. “We can’t believe how many wonderful people we’ve met and have been directly in touch with us. We’ve met so many people along the way.”

    Triton enjoying life after his transplant. Left to right: Triton eating a snow cone, Triton with his little brother at the beach, and Triton celebrating his 9th birthday

    Because Triton’s siblings missed a lot of school, all of them will repeat the past year at a new school in Wyoming this fall. Triton will get home schooling this year, then be off to school in the fall of 2020. 

    “He won’t be able to do all the activities he used to like wrestling and we’re a little nervous about sending him back to school but we’ll be ready.  The important thing is that Dr. Fishbein and all the people at Georgetown saved our son’s life when so many other doctors said, ‘no.’ Despite the ups and downs, you can’t help but smile.”

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  • January 12, 2019

    Triton showing is surgery scarsWhen Jessica Fritz noticed an unusual yellowing tint to her then 6-year-old son Triton’s complexion one day in 2017, she was wary of the clinicians in her town in Wyoming who were dismissing her concerns. 

    “I demanded blood work to get to the bottom of it,” says Fritz. “I just knew something wasn’t right.”

    Testing showed that Triton’s jaundiced appearance was due to a cancerous liver tumor called Rhabdomyosarcoma.  The tumor was blocking one of the ducts that usually empties bile into the liver. The tumor was so extensive it involved the pancreas as well as the liver and bile ducts. The backup of bile was turning his skin yellow.

    Triton underwent a year of chemotherapy. While his tumor responded, it would never go away completely.

    “It came back on his liver in the exact same place,” says Fritz. “We were devastated.”

    Desperate Search for a Treatment

    Fritz and her husband Daniel Fritz began to search for someone who would treat Triton’s cancer. They were running out of options. Running out of time. 

    “All of the doctors were telling us that Triton’s case was too high risk,” says Fritz. “He needed surgery, but they didn’t have the expertise to handle such a surgery. We knew the risks of not doing anything were that our son would lose his life.”

    Triton in the Hospital

    That’s when one of her physicians recommended they travel to Washington, D.C., to the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute to see its executive director, Thomas Fishbein, MD. 

    “We saw Dr. Fishbein who told us, ‘of course there is something we can do for your son,’” says Fritz.

    “Triton had a lethal tumor for which there really is no cure,” says Fishbein.  “Standard approaches could treat a tumor confined to the liver or pancreas, but never one that invaded both organs. He needed a complete liver transplant along with a very complex procedure to remove the pancreas, all without violating the tumor. We believed that if we could give him a new liver, removing at the same time his old liver, bile duct and pancreas,  Triton would have a good chance of survival. This had never been done before for such a rare tumor, but it was his only option.”

    This second part of the procedure, called a Whipple is an operation where a surgeon removes the head of the pancreas, the first part of the small intestine, the gallbladder and the bile duct. The remaining organs are then reattached to allow food to digest normally. Fortunately, as Chief of Hepatobiliary Surgery and Transplantation, Dr. Fishbein was in a unique position of performing both operations commonly.

    Traveling to MedStar Georgetown, Waiting for a New Liver 

    On November 9, 2018 Jessica Fritz, her husband and her younger son left their two other children with grandparents, traveled several hundred miles and checked Triton into MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. 

    “Our strategy was to take care of Triton and manage his medical needs, while we listed him for a liver transplant,” says Fishbein.

    Triton spent many months between MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House of Washington, D.C., where his mother and father traded days watching Triton at the hospital. 

    Caring for the Whole Family

    The timing of Triton’s hospitalization meant that the family would be separated over hundreds of miles during the holiday season.

    play button

    “That’s where Georgetown’s amazing Child Life program kicked in,” recalls Fritz. “Triton and his younger brother attended a Grinch cupcake decorating party in early December, followed by a big party welcoming Santa right before Christmas and a Valentine’s Day craft and cupcake party. The staff treated us more like family than anything. Our younger son was included in all the fun events and that helped us feel like we were keeping the family somewhat together. Even if we were so far from home.”

    During Triton’s wait for a new liver he even landed a small role in the new commercial for MedStar Health where he is seen on camera meeting an “astronaut.”

    “Triton just thought that was hilarious, the coolest thing ever,” says Fritz.

    Triton meeting the astronaut

    The Call Comes

    Then on February 24, 2019, Triton’s parents got the call.  A liver was available.  And it was compatible with Triton’s blood type.

    The next morning, Dr. Fishbein performed the liver transplant and Whipple procedure simultaneously, removing the whole tumor and both organs intact. To add to the complexity, the liver Triton became available for was a small portion split from an adult liver, from which the other side was also transplanted into another adult patient.

    “He recovered insanely fast,” says Fritz. “He was awake two hours after surgery, he was walking around after just four days. Then we attended the St. Patrick’s Day Party, the Easter Party and a Super Heroes Party put on by the Hope for Henry Foundation.”

    Then in early April, Triton and his family returned home to Wyoming. Now, once a week, they make a five-hour trip each way to Salt Lake City, Utah for Triton’s maintenance chemo therapy.

    Triton with Dr. Kaufman and care team

    play button

    Hope for Other Children

    “With Triton’s success, a second patient has already found our program, and is currently awaiting transplant,” says Fishbein. “As more people hear about this new treatment, I hope it will change the outlook for children across the country with this previously incurable childhood cancer.”

    Triton’s New Life

    “Triton is energetic and lively now.  He has a new lease on life because of people reaching out to him and to us.  We learned that you should never give up on your child.”

    Triton’s 43-thousand followers on his Facebook page, “Triton Tough,” have tracked his progress and his new adventures thanks to his mom who tries to post as many updates as she can. “We can’t believe how many wonderful people we’ve met and have been directly in touch with us. We’ve met so many people along the way.”

    Triton enjoying life after his transplant. Left to right: Triton eating a snow cone, Triton with his little brother at the beach, and Triton celebrating his 9th birthday

    Because Triton’s siblings missed a lot of school, all of them will repeat the past year at a new school in Wyoming this fall. Triton will get home schooling this year, then be off to school in the fall of 2020. 

    “He won’t be able to do all the activities he used to like wrestling and we’re a little nervous about sending him back to school but we’ll be ready.  The important thing is that Dr. Fishbein and all the people at Georgetown saved our son’s life when so many other doctors said, ‘no.’ Despite the ups and downs, you can’t help but smile.”

    play button
  • October 11, 2018

    MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center (MSMHC) was among a select group of hospitals nationwide recognized for promoting enrollment in state organ donor registries in a national campaign sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The campaign has added more than 443,000 donor enrollments to state registries nationwide.

    MSMHC conducted awareness and registry campaigns to educate staff, patients, visitors, and community members about the critical need for organ, eye, and tissue donors and, by doing so, increased the number of potential donors on the state’s donor registry. The hospital earned points for each activity implemented between October 2017 and April 2018 and was awarded Silver recognition through the HRSA Workplace Partnership for Life Hospital Campaign.

    Of the 1,283 hospitals and transplant centers participating in the campaign, 360 Silver Awards were awarded during this phase of the campaign.

    “Winning the Washington Regional Transplant Community (WRTC) Silver Award for promotion of organ donation gives me such pride and also has personal meaning,” said Renee Sicheri, MSMHC RN and member of the MSMHC ICU team. “The collaboration between WRTC and our ICU team is evident with every donor patient, as well as the donor family, who are given compassionate care, love, respect and support by the entire team. My family has been touched personally by organ donation. My brother-in-law experienced a hemorrhagic stroke and was an organ donor. His gift of life impacted seven people’s lives. I remember how supportive the team was, and the comfort they brought my family. I am proud to be a part of this fabulous program and the great work carried out by the teams at MSMHC and the WRTC.”

    The Donate Life campaign is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Workplace Partnership for Life, mobilizing the nation’s hospitals to increase the number of people in the country who are registered organ, eye, and tissue donors and ultimately, the number of organs available for transplant.

    “MSMHC is proud to support organ donation,” said MSMHC President Christine Wray. “We humbly thank donors for giving the gift of life, and their families, for supporting their generous decision. We thank all physicians and associates who work in units where donations originate, for their professionalism and reverence for this delicate process. Finally, we thank WRTC for partnering with us in this important, life-saving mission.”

    ###

    About MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center:

    MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center, located in Clinton, Maryland, is a 176 bed acute care hospital serving the Washington, D.C., metro and Southern Maryland area. The hospital is focused on caring for patients and their loved ones utilizing advanced technology under the guidance of expert clinicians. Quality, Safety, Wellness, and Patient Satisfaction are achieved through a spirit of patient centered services that connect us to the community we serve.

    ###

  • April 06, 2018

    Patients Meet MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute Team via Telehealth

    BALTIMORE, Md.—(April 6, 2018)— Baltimore-area patients in end-stage liver failure, or with an advanced liver disease are benefiting from the expertise of the lauded team at MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute (MGTI)– without driving to Washington, D.C., Using teleconferencing technology, patients engage in real-time dialogue with the full range of experts necessary for liver transplant evaluations and post-operative visits at the MedStar Franklin Square Center for Digestive Disease.

    MedStar Franklin Square began offering pre-transplant evaluation once a week with an on-site hepatologist and the MGTI team via telehealth last year. Full-time in-house patient consultation with one of the Institute’s premier liver specialists, Dr. Thomas Faust, was made available in January. 

    The liver transplant program at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., is among the nation’s top liver transplant centers for patients of all ages. Compared to other transplant programs in the region, it boasts superior one-year survival rates across all types of organ transplants and has the highest adult one-year patient survival in the Baltimore and Washington metro areas. MedStar Health patients on the organ wait list are transplanted in a shorter time frame than patients anywhere else in the region – eight months, compared to more than 14 months on average.

    “Liver transplantation is a very complex, rigorous procedure, where positive results rely on meticulous screening and evaluation,” said Anne P. Weiland, vice-president of Surgery, Orthopaedics and Neurosciences for MedStar Health. “The process is a commitment for all parties, and the patient-expert dialogue that must take place can be challenging for patients. The added convenience of the new site at MedStar Franklin Square facilitates patients’ personal interaction with the team and ensures close management of the myriad details involved in their clinical care.”

    Patients on the wait list for a liver transplant typically need multiple pre-operative appointments, scheduled at intervals ranging from every two weeks to every three months depending on the degree of liver impairment - to monitor their liver function. With the new services at MedStar Franklin Square, patients need only travel to MedStar Georgetown for the transplant itself, and for initial post-operative follow up. All other visits can take place locally.

    The highly experienced MGTI team transplants a high proportion of the very sickest patients and performs some of the most complex procedural approaches in the country. It has one of the highest volumes of liver transplants in the US, performing 125 procedures in the calendar year 2017, with superior outcomes.

    MedStar Health has about a dozen patients awaiting a liver transplant at this time. Patients may be candidates for liver transplant based on a variety of causes, including cirrhosis, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, cancer, infection, autoimmune disease, and overdose on certain medications.

    About MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center
    MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center is a not-for-profit 378-bed community teaching hospital located in the White Marsh section of eastern Baltimore County, Maryland. MedStar Franklin Square provides many medical and healthcare services, including a broad range of healthcare specialties, advanced technologies, and treatments not traditionally found at community hospitals. The hospital is ranked third in admissions among all Maryland hospitals and is first in Emergency Department visits with more than 108,000 visits annually. MedStar Franklin Square is accredited by the Joint Commission, certified as a Primary Stroke Center and has earned some of the nation’s most prestigious quality awards including Magnet Designation for excellence in nursing, the Excellence Award for Quality Improvement from the Delmarva Foundation and inclusion in the U.S. News & World Report Best Hospital specialty ranking for four consecutive years. With more than 3,300 employees, MedStar Franklin Square is one of the largest employers in Baltimore County. Visit medstarfranklin.org for more information.

    About MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute

    MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute is part of MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, providing hope and life-restoring care to patients with end-stage organ failure. As one of the highest volume transplant programs in the United States, liver, kidney, small bowel, and multi-organ transplants are all performed at MGTI.  It is also a leader in hepatobiliary surgery, as well as offers auto islet cell transplantation for those patients suffering from the pain of chronic pancreatitis.

    Its one-year adult and pediatric graft survival rates are higher than any other transplant center in the mid-Atlantic region.  The Transplant Institute’s multidisciplinary team of nationally known surgeons and medical specialists, transplant coordinators, social workers and dieticians is committed to guiding and supporting patients and their loved ones through the transplant process and offering patients their best chance for recovery and an improved quality of life.

     MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute has outpatient sites for kidney and liver transplant evaluation across the Baltimore-Washington including at its area hospitals as well as in Fairfax, Virginia and in Frederick, Ellicott City and Annapolis, Maryland. Visit www.medstargeorgetown.org/transplant for more information.

  • January 24, 2017

    Creasey being interviewedMedStar Georgetown kidney transplant recipient Constance Creasey learned about the kindness of strangers after a national radio broadcast featured her story, along with an interview with Dr. Matthew Cooper, MD, medical director of the Kidney Pancreas Transplant program at the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute.

    NPR national medical correspondent Richard Harris compiled a story about Medicare coverage of anti-rejection drugs that expires after three years, but continues to pay for dialysis and even a new transplant. Dr. Cooper commented that this is a policy he believes needs to change.

    To add patient perspective NPR interviewed Creasey, age 60 of Washington, D.C., who mentioned that sleeping on a bed is a luxury she can’t afford because she has to save money for her anti-rejection medications. When NPR’s Morning Edition  listeners heard the story on December 22, many wanted to donate and began to contact NPR and MGUH Media Relations to find out how.

    A woman from Virginia bought Creasey a bed right after the holidays, while donated gift cards from all over the country provided her with sheets and blankets. Another woman from Illinois started a funding page for Creasey; some listeners donated to the MGTI's patient assistance fund that helps patients like Creasey in similar situations.  

    “I was overwhelmed and in total disbelief,” said Creasey. “I didn’t feel like I deserved it.  I was just trying to bring awareness to this issue for other people like myself.” 

    Creasey spent 11 years on dialysis after her kidney failed and received a transplant in 2015. Thankfully, the surgery was a success. However, to prevent rejection, Creasey will have to take medication for the rest of her life. She is becoming increasingly concerned about how she is going to pay for her medication after Medicare stops covering the costs in 2018. 

    Creasey has been “truly grateful” for what people have given her since the story on NPR. She is enjoying her brand new bed, headboard and frame with sheets, a comforter and some curtains. She is happy to finally make her room a little more like home.  Creaseys says she can now turn her heat down because sleeping on the floor was cold.

    “I’m starting off my new year with more faith in people. This experience has touched my heart and I can’t thank everyone enough, “Creasey said.

    -Shannon McCarthy

  • May 05, 2016
    Interventional Radiologist Arshad A. Khan, MD, Offers Relief for Dialysis Patients at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center.
  • October 23, 2014
    As a kidney transplant coordinator at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, Julie Haimes has touched thousands of lives over the years, and was recently honored with the “Patient First Award” from Hospital Center President John Sullivan, for her commitment to providing exceptional quality, safety and service to transplant patients.