Reaching Out – One Transplant Peer to Another

Alan Norton, left, of Buckley, receives kidney dialysis while talking with Al Pettengill, peer mentor with the University of Michigan Transplant Center Kidney Peer Mentor Program, during The Transplant Expo at the Munson Healthcare Dialysis Center in Traverse City. Photo credit Keith King, Traverse City Record-Eagle

Alan Norton, left, of Buckley, receives kidney dialysis while talking with Al Pettengill, peer mentor with the University of Michigan Transplant Center Kidney Peer Mentor Program, during The Transplant Expo at the Munson Healthcare Dialysis Center in Traverse City. Photo credit Keith King, Traverse City Record-Eagle

Peer Mentors Travel the State for Expos

by Carsten Ramcke

I’m a great believer that any tool that enhances communication has profound effects in terms of how people can learn from each other, and how they can achieve the kind of freedoms that they’re interested in.” Bill Gates

This quote, in my opinion, embodies the spirit in which the UMHS Kidney and Pancreas transplant department launched the Transplant Expo program under the direction of the Transplant Center Outreach Manager, Stacy Brand.  I had the opportunity to interview Stacy and learn more about this benchmark program:

Me: What is the goal of the program?

Stacy: The goal of a Transplant Expo is to educate dialysis patients about treatment options for their kidney disease. We provide materials on transplant and have a staff person and peer mentors there to answer questions. The peer mentors are a great way for the patients to learn from someone who also has kidney disease and chose to have a kidney transplant. Not all the peer mentors have been on dialysis but they all understand that if it weren’t for their transplant, they would have been sitting in the dialysis chair too. As part of the Transplant Expo, we also offer dialysis center staff education where one of our nurses or social workers present a 30 or 60 minute presentation on details about our transplant program. This helps the dialysis center staff, who see patients 3 times a week, to feel more comfortable about sharing information on transplant.

Me: How long has the program been in existence?

Stacy: We started doing Transplant Expos in the summer of 2012 as a pilot to see the benefit of peer mentors (we started at the Livonia and Ann Arbor U of M dialysis units) and grew from there. We now go all over the state talking to patients.

Me: How often does a dialysis center visit occur?

Stacy:  We try to go once a month for Transplant Expos- sometimes more. Since January, we have been to 15 dialysis centers.

Me: Who makes up the team that goes to the dialysis centers?

Stacy: The Transplant Expo typically includes myself and two peer mentors (either a kidney recipient and kidney donor or two kidney recipients). For educating the dialysis center staff, we bring along Colleen Satarino (one of our kidney transplant social workers) or a kidney pre-transplant nurse coordinator.

Me: If you had to guess, about how many dialysis patients have been reached through the program?

Stacy: We talk to a variety of people at the expos. Some are currently on the waiting list at our center or another center. Some are currently going through the transplant evaluation process and others have been evaluated before and have either been ruled out, changed their mind or need to lose weight, improve health or get clearance from another doctor, etc. There are others who have never thought about transplant and are excited to learn more and some who have thought about it and transplant isn’t right for them. We speak to anyone who is interested in a dialogue, no matter what their level of interest.

Me: What are some of the fears these expos help U of M patients address?

Stacy: Some of the fears that people have about transplant are the surgery, taking new medications, what if the transplant doesn’t work, family/friend support and travel for so many clinic appointments and the fear of the unknown. Some fears are because they have misinformation, some are because of experiences they have had personally or a friend had and others are fears that can’t be overcome. No matter what, we are there to listen and help them better understand the process.

Me: How does the dialysis center react to the visit?

Stacy: We have been receiving wonderful feedback from the staff and patients at the units. They love having the opportunity to talk to people who have gone through the same thing. We have even been invited back and some units want us to come every year or two (sometimes even more).

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