Archive for the 'MEDICAL' Category


Our New Website

It is with great pleasure that I announce the launch of our new Transplant Village website (

Months ago, we decided to rebrand our organization to better reflect our vision as Transplant Village continued to grow since our 2012 founding.  Our website not only highlights our growth but serves as a leading portal and resource for those connected to Northwestern Medicine’s Comprehensive Transplant Center (CTC) and the greater transplant community.

The structure of the new website coincides with our mission and those we serve.  Within the site you’ll find three main areas:

  • Partners in Giving (a section geared toward our financial donors who support the CTC’s groundbreaking transplant initiatives).
  • Patients & Families (a section dedicated to patients, families, and caregivers who are going through the transplant journey and require resources and support).
  • Giving While Living (a section for those considering living donation or who are committed to saving another person’s life by making the decision to become a living organ donor).

Giving Back

With renewed commitment, we continue to do our part by giving back to Northwestern Medicine’s CTC. As members of our Transplant Advisory Council we are alumni of a very special club. We have all benefitted from the talent and expertise of the clinicians, physicians, and staff at the CTC.

They saved our lives and they continue to save lives daily.

Our organization is unique having helped create a structure like no other in the transplant world.   We have been successful bringing together the constituencies of Northwestern Medicine, The Northwestern Memorial Foundation, the CTC and Transplant Village.  Together, we serve the patient with a shared vision and joint effort.

We help others who are going through the same journey we went through. We do our part so the CTC has most well-funded organ transplant research efforts in the country for the high risk/ high reward initiatives. We want to make sure the CTC will continue to attract world class clinicians and be on the leading edge of the next transplant breakthrough.

This is our way of giving back and creating a memorable legacy.  We help others in their journey, support the CTC’s research efforts, and serve as a trusted resource to transplant patients and families.  We are champions of the CTC and will continue our efforts to assure the CTC is a Tier I Research Institution for years to come.

Transplant Village was successful in executing our initial 5-year vision.  Now, it’s time to build, move forward, and become more effective in our efforts.

Here’s What You’ll Find within the New Website

  • Buddy Program:  when people find out they need a transplant; their world gets turned upside down.  While some have families to turn to, we know the most helpful way to receive support is by talking to someone who has gone through the transplant process.  With our Find a Buddy program, living organ donors and organ donor recipients pair up with a friendly, carefully matched buddy who understands what they’re going through, because they’ve been there!  This is an excellent program and resource for anyone amid transplant.
  • Fundraising:  we continue to do our part so the CTC maintains the most robust research efforts in the nation and attracts the best of the best.  With our support, the CTC will be able to save more lives while continuing its leading-edge research.  We will support the high risk/high reward initiatives started by physicians such as Dr. Joe Leventhal, Dr. Jason Wertheim, and others.
  • Power of 8:  To date, the CTC has been very successful at leveraging its’ philanthropic support.  By attracting matching gifts, grants and other funding, the CTC has a rich institutional history of leveraging gifts by more than a factor of 8.  As we develop the Transplant Innovation Fund, 100% of all gifts will be applied to groundbreaking transplant research.
  • Living Organ Donor Support:  the CTC has one of the largest living donor programs in the country. Transplant Village is trying to change the dialog from one of organ shortage to one of abundance.  Instead of focusing on a shortage, we want to illustrate the surplus.  The solution is one of allocation with living organ donors.  Everyone has two kidneys and a liver grows back! Imagine a world where there were more organ donors than recipients! Our message will be one of abundance and positive action.

Thank You to Everyone Who Made the New Site Possible
The new website was very much so a joint effort led by a group of people who are very close to Transplant Village and inspired by our mission.  We want to extend a special thanks to:

  • Amber Khan who has been with us since the very beginning.  Amber and her team led the vision and creative direction of website including design, content, and development.
  • Annie Gray donated a great deal of time and energy.  Her insight throughout the project was invaluable.  She also connected us to amazing resources at Ogilvy, including Gabe Usadel and Sho Watanabe who created the new Transplant Village logo.
  • Laurie Dickinson Lee has been an infallible advocate of Transplant Village and has helped shape it into what it is today – an organization that is inspiring others and saving lives.  Thank you for all you contributed to this project and for all you continue to do!
  • Peter Medlock is the talented creator of the videos you see throughout the website. Peter came up with a vision for each video and executed impeccably.
  • Finally, we want to thank the members of the Transplant Advisory Council.  You all put in so much time and energy.  We could not have done this without each of you.


Over the past year my blog has received thousands of hits and I have received many E-Mails from folks contemplating an organ transplant.  As any transplant patient transits the process it’s all about patient and their survival.  Fear, hope, and a myridrid of other emotions affect the patient and their families in additional to their health problems.  The fear of the unknown can be paralyzing. I am grateful if my blog has helped some of you in the process.

My transplant journey began 18 months prior to my transplant in March 1, 2011. It’s been almost 4 years since my transplant.   I was lucky because I was very healthy prior to transplant.  In June of 2011 the FAA gave me my pilot’s license back and that winter I was back on skis.  During the summer of 2011, only 120 days after transplant Nancy and I were spending a month in Canada.

During my journey I had no fear and envisioned a month out of my life once I received “the call”.  My vision was to visit the Gift of Hope facility (the local organ procurement center) on day 30. This vision became my reality; mostly because of my knowledge and faith. On April 1, 2011 I had a delightful lunch with the president of the Gift of Hope after a tour of their facility and meeting the people that made my transplant possible.  Today I have no side effects from my transplant except a big scar that has healed nicely as a badge of honor.

After 4 years of reflections I have two observations to share with you:

SEEK THE BEST MEDICAL.  GO TO THE BEST — Generally for most of us we have decent insurance.  Your insurance will pay for you to go to the very best providers in the world.  It also pays for you to go to the worst. It’s your choice.  If someone offers you a free meal of your choice for a co-pay are you going to choose a Big Mac or a 5-star restaurant?   This means you need to take PERSONAL RESPONSIBILTY. (Something that is lacking in our society but I digress)  You or a family member must research for the best care, you need to learn the system, the process and everything about your condition. NEVER wait for your local doc to make a recommendation for the best care.  You need to take the initiative. You and your family must take control of the events. You are going to control the events or the events are going to control you. Time is not your friend.  This is YOUR responsibility and if you don’t take this seriously you may not survive.

It seems that one of my missions in life is to steer my friends away from our local hospital where I am waiting for my first “good news” story.  The docs do their best at these local hospital but best isn’t good enough.  They tend to hang on to their patients too long. Often they are doing their patients a disservice.  When the patient finally make the switch to a Center of Excellence teaching hospital they usually say to the patient – “that’s where I would go”. (Which begs the question- why the hell didn’t you say that before?!!)  I think one of the dirty secrets out there is what the transplant centers refer to the Friday afternoon dump.  That’s when the local docs decide it’s time to pass on their sickest patients to a transplant center.

Of course, if every patient decided to go to the same “best doc” there would be long lines at Mayo and Cleveland Clinic with empty beds at Podunk Hospital. The good news for you is only 5% of the patients will be competing for the best!  95% never seem to take the initiative.

Are you part of the 5% or the 95%? Align yourself with the major league players!

“GIVING BACK” IS A UNIVERSAL DESIRE OF A POST-TRANSPLANT PATIENT.  I noticed this dynamic early.  A post-transplant patient has become a member of this “special club”.  It’s not a club we ever thought we would join but by virtue of our transplant we become a member.  We are all very grateful and we seek ways to give back to the next person in line.  In my opinion, we are much like a college alumni club where there is an overwhelming gratefulness and a zest for a new life.

This dynamic was the basis for us forming the Transplant Advisory Council at Northwestern and our on-line presence of (Transplant Village).  A group of us have made a huge difference.

Our Transplant Village board have given their time and talents selfishly. We formed a buddy program where incoming patients can team up with one of our board members that are post-transplant.  We have a Patient Assistance Fund – some money set aside to help those patients with special needs. In April we held a sold out event of 500 transplant patients and family members  where we celebrated 50 years of transplant at Northwestern We have initiated and seeded a $5.0 Mil endowment and last summer held the 1st Annual Chicago Sharkfest Swim. And we’ve raised significant funds for transplant research at Northwestern.  We have $1.5 Mil remaining to a $5.0 Mil goal! All the money we have raised goes to further transplant medical research at Northwestern. As a group, we are fulfilling our desire to give back by helping those patients waiting for an organ.

It has been a wonderful year and I wish you the very best for 2015….

Dan Dickinson

Visit our Transplant Village website at !!


Transplant Village Grows !!

In the beginning this blog was all about me and my impending liver transplant.  On March 1st it will be THREE YEARS since my transplant.  For me it is like it never happened.  I am  flying my airplane, I ski and travel.  But life is a journey and its no longer about me…

Now the blog is all about others, the journey about Transplant Advisory Board and Transplant Village which I am honored to Chair. It has been great fun being part of building something from scratch that has never been done before. Now it’s all about the future of transplant medicine and helping the next guy coming down the line.

We held a soft kick off in November with an “open” meeting of the Transplant Advisory Council. All Northwestern transplanted patients (around 4500) were invited and we had no idea how people would respond. We received RSVPs for around 160 and nearly 250 attended! In all, nearly 400 people responded positively to the invitation to both attend the meeting as well as receive information about future activities. We are thrilled at the response!

Below are some videos from the meeting.  Immediately below is my introduction of Dr. Abecassis and an update on our activity.  In the same video is Dr. Abecassis’s update on the activities and future of Transplant Center and a high level over view.

Next are a couple of videos from transplant patients — those that have received the life saving gift and are leading a normal life.

The big news is we have another “All Village” event in March and our April Gala where we are expecting over 500 folks.  Stay tuned to our website at !!



Update from Dan

I am now 6 months shy of my 3rd anniversary of my liver transplant. They say one day I might die, but it isn’t going to be because of my liver! I have no restrictions to my daily activities. I ski, fly my aircraft and do everything I love to do. Life is good.

My medication consists of 4mg of Prograf daily and my 88mg baby aspirin. That’s it. Nada. Nothing for cholesterol, blood pressure or other ailments. Nothing in my blood work is the least bit out of balance. My labs are drawn monthly and on occasion the liver test is sent back for retesting. The liver numbers are so low (low is good) they suspect a lab error! ALT/AST are both around 10-12.

Dan and Nancy this summer in Canada

Dan and Nancy this summer in Canada

The 4mg Prograf dosage is the anti-rejection component and maintains a TAC blood level of around five. This is very low dosage/TAC level compared to most transplant recipients. My low dosage is the result of a study to wean patients from the Prograf to the lowest possible level. I was hoping to reduce my dosage to zero but at around 1mg/daily my liver numbers began to escalate which is the indication of rejection. The good news is I now know my personal minimum dosage which is the 4mg –half of what I was taking before I started the study.

In the beginning this blog was all about me. Now the blog is about the next person receiving a transplant at Northwestern. As most of you know we have put together a group to bring the Northwestern transplant community together. Officially we are known as the Transplant Advisory Council. Our online presence is known as Transplant Village. Our website is at: and our Facebook page is at Please take a peak and “like” us on Facebook.

Our mission is clear and our message is targeted. We are alumni of a very special club. And the gratefulness of our alumni has no boundaries. Our job is to support the future of organ transplant at Northwestern and to create a sustainable philanthropic platform. Institutional research is the key to unlocking advances to organ transplantation and Northwestern Medicine is on the leading edge of this effort. But it is only through philanthropic efforts that much of these efforts can be launched.

A great example of the ground-breaking research was illustrated this week with this clip that you may have seen on the news.

This is just one example but it involves stem cell transplant and resetting the immune system in order to eliminate organ rejection. This is amazing stuff!

Our Transplant Advisory Board is 18 months in existence, but we’ve made some great progress. On my previous post I have attached a copy of my “friends” letter which I recently sent out to many in the community which outlines our successes.


Late Update From Dan

Thanksgiving and Christmas is always a time of praise and thanks. And this year is no different. Reminding me this morning was a Today Show interview with a man that had received a heart transplant 20 years ago having been on the waiting list for several years. A twist of events changed his life. His daughter was in an auto accident and was brain dead. The unthinkable happened when the doctors told him his daughter’s heart was the perfect match. He is the only man alive having to make that decision to accept a daughters heart.

As for me I am as normal as can be. It has been 18 months since my transplant. Milestone came early for me. 3 days after the transplant they sent me home. 3 weeks later I was at back in my office. 104 days after my transplant the FAA gave my pilot’s license back and today I can still shoot a 200/half IFR approach. Last year I skied the Rockies several times and already bought my season’s pass for this year. And last summer Nancy and I spent the month of July on the Nancy D in the Waters of The Georgian Bay in Canada. So the residual effect of the transplant on me is nothing. Nada.

So my health couldn’t be Better. I am on a study to reduce my rejection medication to zero. it is a 2 years process reducing the Prograf and my Current daily dosage it 1.5 Mg per day. The Docs don’t even bother to measure the Prograf blood levels anymore because it isn’t perceptible. My only other medication is the obligatory daily baby aspirin. I take no medication for blood pressure or cholesterol and my blood work is just about perfect. With luck I’ll be off Prograf in less than a year. If successful, I will be one of the very few transplant patients in the world not on rejection medication. There is always a chance this isn’t going to succeed in which case I go into rejection. While this sounds terrible it’s not – my liver would enter a slow motion process where the liver numbers increase. That’s called organ rejection and the cure is a slight increase in medication. So, worst case I’ll know my own personal minimum amount of medication. At this juncture no matter what happens my medication level will be low enough not to register with my blood work. Since Prograf has a long term toxicity to the kidney this is a good thing.

So the focus has been off of me for many months and has been on others going through the transplant process. It seems every week I’m talking to someone about transplants. The vast majority of transplant patients feel an obligation to give back and offering their talents and resources to help the next guy through the process. Transplant recipients feel it is their obligation and honor to do so.

About six months after my transplant I was asked to Chair and form a board for the Transplant Center. Officially it’s called the Transplant Advisory Council for the Comprehensive Transplant Center at Northwestern Hospital. We’ve put together a great board mostly consisting of some very grateful transplant patients with varying talents. These are generally “Type A” accomplished folks that have a desire to give back and are willing to donate their talents and resources. Our goal is to raise money for various initiatives at the CTC. Northwestern is a research institution and it is these institutions that attract the best and the brightest minds in medicine. Northwestern is a premier research hospital and the evidence is the success of their initiatives.

Of course it takes money to fund these initiatives. There are three sources for funding. First are the internal sources through the University. Second are government and foundation sources such as ITN or NIH. Third are the philanthropy sources which is the focus of our board. A research project has to show promise before NIH or ITN funding kicks in. Somehow the project needs get from point A to point B and that usually means from private sources which is the philanthropy. Those donating money bet on the jockey and Northwestern Medicine is a very good bet, indeed.

So in order to attract philanthropy we first must build a community. Over 4,000 patients have had transplants at Northwestern and now we will bring that community together. Think of this as akin to your college alumni group. It is the grateful alumni who are critical to the long term viability of any institution. If the makeup of our board is any indication a transplant alumni association it will consist of people who are about as grateful as one can get.

Our communications committee has put together both a website and Facebook page. The website is at The Facebook page is at . These sites are in pre-production beta form but you should be able to get the drift. Take a look and let us know what you think. And if you want to be part of our group please let us know.

Over the next few weeks I will outline in my blog some information about the various research projects that are showing great promise. We are already growing mice livers in the lab. Pigs are next. Stem cells are showing great promise to grow organs on demand in the years ahead. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg so stay tuned!


Happy re-birthday to me (la la la)

It was one year ago today that I had my transplant. So it’s happy re-birthday to a part of me.

I remember vividly when Katie, my transplant coordinator called me. I was at my office having decided that morning I was tired of waiting for a liver. Being constructive (and impatient) I was filling out my paperwork for my pilot’s medical certificate. Katie called and I put the paperwork in my “hold” file and sent some texts out to Nancy, Laurie, and Annie at 12:49 PM. “I think they found a liver, meet you downtown” I had been prepped for surgery on three other occasions only to find the liver wasn’t a match. This time I knew was different. I collected my stuff and stopped by Ric’s, my favorite hamburger joint. Katie forgot to tell me not to eat and I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity. (Yum) The liver didn’t arrive at Midway Airport until 10:30 that evening (I tracked it on the Internet) and they finally put me under around 1 AM or so. I was glad I had the burger.

March of 2011 was recovery time. It wasn’t a lot of fun. On April 1st I visited the Gift of Hope folks thanking them for all they did, and a few days after that I was in the office. On June 28th we left Port Kenosha on the Nancy D for the Georgian Bay area in Canada and I was back to normal – just like it never happened. By July 10th the FAA gave me back my Pilot Medical Certificate. In January I was skiing Vail. The transplant seems like a long time ago.

Over the past couple of days I’ve sent some E-Mails out to my docs thanking them again and to all those that helped me through the process. The list is long. No matter how healthy and strong one might be it takes family, great docs, and support – especially for the first couple of weeks after surgery.

So today we almost have our philanthropy advisory council put together at Northwestern working together with the Foundation. We have our first meeting in April. We have a wonderful group of very grateful alumni on our council. Our charge is to promote and attract funding for some of the research initiatives at the center. We intend to take these efforts to the next level and establish a process that is built to last. It has amazed me the number of very talented alumni who want to make a difference – making it easier for the next guy coming down the transplant line. And only my imagination limits me to what a group of extremely dedicated and accomplished individuals can accomplish when let loose supporting this worthy cause. This will be great fun to Chair this effort.

This week I had a very interesting meeting with the founder of Living Kidney Donors Network. Harvey Mysel has put together a very unique organization. LKDN’s primary Mission is to educate people who need a kidney transplant about the LIVING donation process and to prepare them to effectively communicate their need to family members and friends. Their website is at

There are striking similarities between kidney and liver transplantation. A donor can be either a LIVE donor OR a deceased donor. A live donor can give up a kidney, leaving one remaining for a normal life. It’s the same with liver. In many cases a LIVE donor can donate up 60% of their liver and it grows back in a matter of a few weeks.

Harvey pointed something out to me and here is where it really becomes interesting….

Harvey did a quick search of the number of Liver Transplants, living and deceased: ++

Year 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
Deceased Donors                                 614 5,614 6,009 6,101 6,070 6,228
Living Donors                                      226 226 282 219 249 266

NOTE: In 2001 there were 526 living liver transplants!!!( I’m sure there’s an explanation for that)

** For 2011 the #’s are complete only thru November.

++ Figures are from UNOS (

To Wit – Roughly speaking there are average 16,000 people in the USA waiting for a liver transplant. The math is very simple –many die waiting for a liver. It is the law of supply and demand and the demand trumps supply. The number of living donors is a small fraction of the deceased donors. Why is that? And why were there 526 living donor transplants in 2001 and only half of that today?

This raises more questions than it answers. Could the waiting list for livers be reduced or eliminated with more live donors? LKDN has saved countless lives by promoting live donations with kidneys. For every live donation it moves someone else up the list to receive a deceased donation. Could the same metric be applied to the liver? Could this be a game changer? What if the paradigm shifted? Can it be changed?

You might say – “so who will give up a liver or kidney for a stranger?” Well, from what I’ve seen there are plenty of people. A couple of entries down on this blog is the story of my friend Paul. He is two week post-op and doing great. His donor was a Good Samaritan.

Katrina Bramstedt wrote a book about Good Samaritans and the meaning of altruism. Katrina is a transplant ethicist and wrote – The Organ Donor Experience. It is a fascinating read and involves several case studies of good Samaritans making an organ donation. Her web page is at . The stories are inspirational. But more important they are life changing. The book explains the process for live donation and the factors relating to it.

All of this makes good discussion….


…. And a good time was had by all

Things are going well. “Well” as defined as I think nothing ever happened….

We had five weeks on the Nancy D cruising areas of the Georgian Bay and Northern Lake Huron. We plied waters where we have never been including some uncharted stuff where Nancy was the bow watch. We left Port Kenosha on June 25th and arrived back the first week of August with one week in between where we flew back for business. Twice during our Canadian cruise I got my normal lab work. None of the folks we met in Canada care for the health system but for me it worked out well for me. In the USA the Lab work is about $365. I pay $20 and the insurance company picks up the rest at a discounted rate of about $180. In Canada I had to pay full retail cost myself. But it only cost $56. Something is screwy somewhere….

Today has been about 6- ½ months since my transplant. Two weeks ago was my six month check up. Everything is going well, no issues, and they have lowered all of my medication. My pills are about half of what they were. On March 1st, my one year mark, I enter the study to get off the anti-rejection drugs completely. There are some folks on the study that are on one Prograf a week. While I have no side effects from the drugs it will be nice to get off them completely.

Last night our family had one of the most spectacular nights ever. The American Liver Foundation (ALF) had their annual meeting in Chicago along with their magical dinner. The dinner was in honor of my friend Dr. Michael Abecassis who is Chief of the comprehensive transplant center at Northwestern. Mike is the guy that guided me and my family through our journey, so we were pleased for our family to honor him. This was HIS well-deserved night. At the dinner was Dr. Daniela Ladner, my lead surgeon. We also met the very first transplant patient from 1993 ( serial # 0001 – I am about Serial # 1200) who is doing just fine. As a family we consider these folks heroes doing what they do every day. It is a very tight net family with a holistic culture with the benefit going to the patient. Rarely do I see this kind of dedication in any profession. Any patient under their care is very lucky, indeed. Working with the “best of the best” is a privilege. Here are some photos of my family along with Dr. Ladner and Abecassis.

At the dinner was a silent auction. There was only one thing we bid on that we wanted – And we won!! Scrubbing in and watching a surgery. Now the only problem with that is it’s a back surgery. I would imagine the prize was given by some doc who needs his back operated on who figures anyone can watch. Regrettably I gave up my prize to Nancy. Five years ago Nancy had an artificial disk installed in her lower back, going through the abdomen . She negotiated with the doc that she wanted to stay awake and watch but they said no. So now Nancy gets to finally watch – on someone else. As for me I doubled the bid but said “For liver transplant only”. I thought – fat chance of that. But they took my money and I now feel I am in a strong negotiating position. Yes, I want to watch a liver transplant. So, I approached a few of my surgeon friends introducing myself as their new assistant. No one was impressed with my para-liver transplant surgeon skills and I could only picture myself tied to a chair with a gag in my mouth. I think the closest I’ll get is watching it on TV. And for those of you that want to do that, just tune in at:

This is a modified “made for TV” version, but I think you will get the drift.

Stay healthy and be proactive….