University Heart Grand OpeningZippity Doo Dah gives to BCHTomorrow. Every Day.Jackson Free Clinic
Published in CenterView on October 08, 2012
Dr. Mark Earl, left, with Robert Hutton
Dr. Mark Earl, left, with Robert Hutton

Batson program provides full spectrum of care for patients needing complex operations

By Jen Hospodor

Facing surgery and hospitalization can be a stressful experience for anyone, especially a child.

That stress can be compounded when receiving the necessary medical care requires traveling hundreds of miles to a hospital in another state.

At Batson Children’s Hospital, children needing a particularly complex operation – a kidney transplant – no longer have to worry about leaving their friends and family or the doctors they’ve come to trust to get the medical care they need.

The first kidney transplant ever performed in operating rooms with children’s hospital staff assisting took place recently when 15-year-old Robert Hutton of Raymond received his new kidney, officially launching the Pediatric Kidney Transplant Program.

“This really represents a continuity of care,” said Dr. Chris Anderson, associate professor of surgery and division chief of transplant and hepatobiliary surgery, who performed Hutton’s operation. “We’ve been able to follow Robert from diagnosis to treatment, all the way to transplant, all here at Batson.”

Developing the transplant program at Batson has been a goal of Anderson’s since he joined the Medical Center in 2011. He spent the last year assembling the highly specialized team needed to make that happen.

Before Hutton’s transplant, a small group of teenage patients received new kidneys in University Hospital, but the vast majority of children had to be sent to an out-of-state facility.

Dr. Mehul Dixit, Hutton’s nephrologist, professor and chief of pediatric nephrology and medical director of the Pediatric Kidney Transplant Program, has 12 patients currently waiting for new kidneys.

“We really wanted to grow the program so that children of all ages, not just teenagers, will have access to transplant services,” Anderson said.

According to members of the team, having transplant services available in Batson Children’s Hospital, as opposed to University Hospital, is vital because specially sized equipment and staff trained specifically in pediatric care make for better outcomes when caring for children and adolescents. And being closer to home is easier on the children and their families.

“Kids can now get the full spectrum of kidney care in their home state from the doctors and nurses that have been caring for them all along,” said Dr. Mark Earl, assistant professor of surgery. “It creates less disruption in their lives, which is critical for them to get back to a normal life and back to being a kid.” 

Getting back to normal is something Hutton was ready to do. Just 10 days after his transplant, Hutton was anxious to return to school and hoped to be able to play football next season.
And even after he and Dixit reviewed the strict schedule of pills he is now required to take, Hutton expressed his gratitude to not be trapped by the dialysis machine all day.

“If I had to choose, I choose the pills,” Hutton said.

“It’s been a long journey for a 15-year old,” said Dixit. “Transplant gives him better quality of life, so he doesn’t have to stay on dialysis every day for the rest of his life.”

Hutton’s condition, focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, causes kidneys to gradually fail. Medication could not control the disease. And although transplant was discussed from the beginning, FSGS recurs in approximately 30-40 percent of patients after transplant, so Hutton underwent six months of dialysis to get rid of the FSGS before getting listed for transplant.

Hutton had been on the transplant list for only two to three months when he received the call that his new kidney was ready.

Hutton’s father, Ian Willis, said he assured his nervous son that he had the best hands in the whole state working on him. The operation went well and, looking at Hutton less than two weeks post-op, no one would know he had just had major surgery.

“Going through all of that, the stress, the struggle, the pain, I say it paid off,” said Willis.