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Easing the Burdens Placed on Patient Families:
Penn Medicine to Build Philadelphia’s First Adult Transplant House
December 16, 2008, Volume 55, No. 16



Penn Medicine recently announced the creation of the Clyde F. Barker Transplant House, a “home away from home” designed to help ease the unique economic and emotional stresses of transplant families. Modeled after the Ronald McDonald Houses and named for the physician who performed the first kidney transplant at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in 1966, the Barker Transplant House will be located at 3940 Spruce Street and will offer comfortable, convenient accommodations in a supportive community setting—all at a nominal cost.

Penn Medicine held a dedication ceremony to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new Transplant House, honor renowned surgeon and transplant pioneer, Dr. Clyde F. Barker, and recognize the generous support of the donors who have helped make substantial progress towards this project’s $2 million goal.

Joining Dr. Barker at the dedication ceremony were the Mehl brothers—HUP’s first transplant patients. Forty-three years ago Dr. Barker performed the first living donor kidney transplant on brothers Joseph and Howard Mehl. The recipient still has his original transplanted kidney with excellent kidney function and is one of the longest surviving kidney transplant recipients in the nation. Also in attendance were other transplant patients and families who shared their experience and thoughts on how having a transplant house on campus will help future patients.

Organ transplantation is one of medicine’s true life-saving miracles. After five decades of innovation, Penn remains a leader in transplant discoveries and technology, performing over 400 organ transplants annually. But for many patients and their families, receiving the good news of a life-saving organ match also causes anxiety. Transplant candidates are often disabled for years, which hinders—if not completely stops—their earning ability. Growing sicker and weaker while awaiting a compatible donor organ, patients often become totally dependent on spouses and family members who, in addition to being their sole means of financial support, become their round-the-clock caregivers.

 Over one-third of Penn’s transplant patients must travel more than 50 miles for their surgery —some coming from as far as New England, the Carolinas, Ohio, and beyond. All too often, the joy of receiving a compatible organ is tempered by the harsh reality of extended hospital visits for the patient and pricey travel expenses for the family. And such challenges are not short-term. Following transplantation, organ recipients must return repeatedly for follow-up care —as often as 50 times during the first two years post-surgery. For loved ones, the full transplantation experience adds up to a mountain of non-reimbursable hotel, transportation and meal expenses—at a time when emotions and finances are already stretched to a breaking point. The Barker Transplant House will help ease these emotional and economic burdens by providing affordable, convenient and comfortable accommodations.

“We’re honored to share such an important milestone in care for our transplant patients and their families,” said Dr. Abraham Shaked, director of the Penn Transplant Center and chief of the Division of Transplant Surgery. “The Barker Transplant House represents the reality that patient care extends beyond our hospital’s walls in addition to our continued commitment to improve the patient experience.”

“We’re so pleased to be able dedicate Penn’s Transplant House in the name of our own legendary surgeon Dr. Clyde Barker,” said Ralph W. Muller, chief executive officer of Penn’s Health System. “Thanks to his many years of hard work and dedication, Dr. Barker has built our clinical transplant service into the largest and most successful program in the region. And he continues to be an exemplary mentor and role model for new generations of surgeons.”

 The Barker Transplant House, located blocks from HUP, will be staffed around the clock and offer 24-hour shuttle service to HUP. This “home away from home” for a patient’s family offers many comforts and modern amenities, including: furnished bedrooms, a family meeting room, dining area, communal kitchen with modern facilities, a laundry room, and computers with Internet access. There will also be a telephone liaison to the transplant floor of the hospital and a family education center in the house.

 In addition to easing the logistical and financial burdens facing transplant families, the Barker House will provide important opportunities for peer support. “All transplant patients feel a sense of uncertainty,” said Richard Leighton, a liver transplant recipient and chair of the Transplant House Committee. “The Transplant House will provide a much-needed physical space for patients and their families to share experiences and exchange information. It is a tremendous benefit—and comfort—to everyone.”

 Penn’s Board of Women Visitors, who gave the naming gift for the Barker Transplant House, the Philadelphia Antiques Show Committee, and donations from throughout the entire transplant community are funding the $2 million project.

The Barker Transplant House will be designed by Rafael Viñoly, who also designed Penn’s new Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, and constructed by L.F. Driscoll Company.



Almanac - December 16, 2008, Volume 55, No. 16