Our transplant nurse coordinators are with you every step of the way
Transplant nurse coordinators Serita Hernandez, Karen Curreri, Anne Hutchinson, and Vlad Doxy
Anyone who has been through a kidney transplant will tell you that it involves much more than surgery. Receiving a kidney is a life-changing journey, one that involves many steps and the promise of a better quality of life.
BMC’s Kidney Transplant Program team knows how to expertly guide you through the entire transplant process. Whether you are a living donor or an organ recipient, our nurse coordinators will be there for you every step of the way, from your initial evaluation through your post-surgical care. With a combined 40 years of experience, our nurse coordinators will answer all your questions and set you up for success.
Pre-Transplant Nurse Coordinators: Anne Hutchinson, RN, and Serita Hernandez, RN, CNN, CCTC
Anne Hutchinson and Serita Hernandez handle all aspects of coordinating care for BMC kidney recipients — whether you are getting a kidney from a living donor or getting on the transplant list.
“A lot of patients have a fear of the unknown, regarding surgery and recovery, and what happens afterwards,” says Hernandez. “We educate them right at the beginning and answer all their questions.”
Hutchinson says this not only involves making sure patients remain healthy enough to have the surgery, but also that they will take good care of the new kidney once they receive it. “We make sure all their tests and diagnostics are up to date, so they are ready when a kidney is available,” she says. “But we also check in with the dialysis nurses, to see how they are doing in the clinic and that they are showing up for their appointments. And if they’re not, we try to help get them back on track.”
Hutchinson and Hernandez also help patients improve their health so they can get on the list. “If someone’s body mass index (BMI) is too high for a kidney transplant or if they smoke, we refer them to the weight management clinic or the smoking cessation clinic,” says Hernandez. “Then we follow their progress. Once their situation changes, we can help get them back into the transplant program.”
“Waiting for a kidney can be a long and challenging time, anywhere from 3 to 11 years, but we do what we can to help keep their spirits up so they don’t give up,” says Hutchinson. Both she and Hernandez also encourage patients to try to find a living donor if possible. “Most are very hesitant to ask family and friends, so we give them lots of information and a tip sheet for talking with donors,” says Hutchinson. “We also encourage them to use social media if they are comfortable with it.”
Post-Transplant Nurse Coordinator: Vlad Doxy, RN
Once a patient receives a transplant, they meet with transplant nurse coordinator Vlad Doxy, to learn all about how to take care of their new kidney. Patients with language barriers are often pleasantly surprised that Doxy speaks French, Haitian Creole, and Spanish.
Doxy was previously a dialysis nurse manager at BMC, so he understands how transformational a kidney transplant can be. “The best part of my job is seeing my patients right after their transplant and then seeing them a year later as a totally different person with a functioning kidney. It’s amazing how everything changes — their energy, their color, their hair, their personality. Sometimes I don’t even recognize them!”
At bedside, Doxy explains how different life will be post-transplant. There is much to celebrate: no fluid restrictions, no biweekly dialysis appointments, and a liberal diet full of all the things not allowed during end-stage kidney disease, such as proteins, dairy, and foods high in potassium and phosphorus. An at-home cook for his wife and five kids, Doxy enjoys sharing nutritious recipes and easy food prep tips. “Patients don’t always have an appetite after surgery, and I’ll tell l them to how to make nutritious smoothies,” says Doxy.
With a new kidney also comes responsibilities. “A lot of people think that once they have the transplant, they’re good to go, but that’s not true,” Doxy says. “This is major surgery.” He makes sure patients commit to not taking public transportation or driving for the first six to eight weeks of recovery, and that they have adequate support during that time.
Living Donor Nurse Coordinator: Karen Curreri, RN, CCTC
If you are a living donor — or considering becoming one — Karen Curreri will help guide you through the program. All potential living donors contact Curreri first, either by email or phone.
“We talk about the program and who they want to donate to. I try to answer any questions they have, and then email them a medical questionnaire and educational materials about being a living donor,” she says.
The real journey begins once the donor returns the questionnaire. Curreri reviews the donor’s medical information with a kidney doctor (nephrologist) to make sure they have no medical issues that would rule them out. Then she orders bloodwork to see if the donor and recipient have compatible blood types.
“If they are compatible, I schedule a full living donor evaluation, which is even more thorough than for the recipient. We need to make sure the donor can live a long, full life with just one kidney.”
The donor evaluation process can take anywhere from four weeks to over a year. The costs of these tests, as well as the surgery, are covered by the recipient’s insurance. During this time, the donor meets with several specialists on the team, including a surgeon, nephrologist, and sometimes a cardiologist. They also meet with a donor advocate, who makes sure the donor understands exactly what it means to be a living donor. If a potential donor doesn’t live near Boston, Curreri helps the donor complete the needed tests closer to their home.
Once the evaluation is complete, the transplant team gets together to make sure the donor meets all the qualifications for the surgery. “In rare cases, we have to tell a donor they can’t go forward, which is always hard,” says Curreri. And, if the donor changes their mind at any point in the process, they are always free to back out, no questions asked.
The next step is scheduling the surgery, which is based on the donor’s preference. “The surgeries start around the same time in two separate operating rooms,” says Curreri. In almost all cases, the kidney starts working as soon as it is transplanted.”
Curreri says her favorite part of her job occurs the day after surgery, when she visits both the donor and recipient and often brings the donor into the recipient’s room. “Seeing the gratitude from the recipient is just amazing. These donors display such incredible generosity and kindness. I started my career as a labor and delivery nurse, and transplant is a lot like that — giving life.”