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Division of Transplant Surgery

Littleton congregant donates kidney to fellow church member

Phil Gustafson (standing) and Charles Roberts (in hospital bed) at University of Colorado Hospital

Charles Roberts, a member of the Littleton Church of Christ, had been asking his congregation to pray for him for months. Faced with kidney failure, he was going to dialysis three times a week, and his health was deteriorating.

For Roberts, a man of strong faith, the surprise was not that his prayer was answered but that the donor came from his own congregation. Phil Gustafson heard Roberts’ story in church, thought about what it would mean to help, and decided to get tested to see if he could be the donor.

Gustafson found out he was a match. He decided to donate one of his kidneys to help restore Roberts to health.

The transplant was performed on January 24 at University of Colorado by Dr. Thomas Bak, who operated on Roberts, and Dr. Thomas Pshak, who operated on Gustafson. Both procedures went smoothly.

To see Roberts and Gustafson share their experience with their church family, watch the video on the 9 News website. (A brief advertisement will play before the video.)

(February 2018)

Dr. Liz Pomfret recognized for mentorship

Dr. Elizabeth Pomfret

Congratulations to Dr. Elizabeth Pomfret, Chief of Transplant Surgery, for receiving the 2018 Francis Moore Excellence in Mentorship in the Field of Transplantation award from the American Society of Transplant Surgeons (ASTS).

This award acknowledges the efforts of established surgeons for their stewardship of fellowship trainees and junior faculty. Candidate ASTS members or junior faculty within 7 years of fellowship may nominate one mentor annually for this award.

Learn more on the ASTS website.

(January 2018)

Former Navy SEAL makes lifesaving liver donation

Jeff Bramstedt, liver donor, with Melinda Ray, recipient

Jeff Bramstedt is no stranger to danger. Having served as a Navy SEAL for 13 years, he works as a movie stuntman and skydive instructor in California. But the risk he took this past year, at the age of 47, was something different.

Through his wife, Jeff learned about Melinda Ray, a Colorado woman facing a life-threatening health crisis. (Jeff's wife is a close friend of Melinda's sister.) Although Jeff had never met Melinda, he was immediately moved by her story and wanted to help. Continue reading

(January 2018)

A liver transplant for Santa Claus

Bruce Arnold (Santa) and his wife Margaret Arnold (Mrs. Claus) at the Lights of December Parade in Boulder on Dec. 2, 2017

Every life saved by an organ transplant touches many other lives. A wonderful example is Bruce Arnold, who has served as Santa Claus for the city of Boulder for the past decade.

In 2010, liver failure almost took Arnold’s life. Thankfully, he received a donor organ in time. Dr. Michael Wachs performed the surgery in March 2011, and Arnold regained his health.

Since Arnold’s return to Boulder’s holiday festivities in December 2011, hundreds more children have sat on his knee and experienced a little bit of Christmas magic. You can read more about Bruce Arnold (and his wife, Mrs. Claus) in the Boulder Daily Camera’s recent profile.

(January 2018)

Saving the life of a fellow fan and friend

Char Snyder and Teri Trafton

A friendship between two couples that began over CU football games ended up saving a life—and leading to the promise of more lives saved in the future.

Teri Trafton and her husband Charlie have been attending CU Buffs football games for years. That’s where they met another couple, Char and Lee Snyder, who are also longtime season ticket holders. The two couples saw each other regularly at games and struck up an acquaintance.

When the Traftons learned that Char Snyder had kidney disease and would need a transplant, they were concerned, but Lee told them a donor had been found, and they thought everything would be fine. However, when they saw Lee the following football season, they learned that the donor had turned out to be incompatible and that Char had taken a turn for the worse. She was now undergoing regular dialysis and faced a likely wait of 3-4 years for a deceased-donor transplant. Her doctors didn’t think she would make it that long.

That’s when Teri Trafton decided to donate one of her own kidneys to Char. After review of all her testing, doctors concluded that she was a great match.

Dr. Peter Kennealey and Dr. Thomas Bak performed the transplant surgeries at University of Colorado Hospital. The surgery went beautifully for both women.

The Synders were so grateful for Teri’s gift and Char’s recovery that, mere months after Char’s release from the hospital, they established the Trafton-Snyder Endowed Fund in Kidney Transplantation. Their generous gift will support the Division of Transplant Surgery, with a focus on kidney transplantation and care for end-stage renal disease.

Go deeper:

(November 2017)

Flight-for-Life nurse burned in helicopter crash receives new kidney

Dave Repsher (center) and his wife Amanda (left) talk with Dave's kidney donor, Matt Martinez

Dave Repsher has spent much of his adult life helping others. He worked for years as a full-time ski patroller, then as an ambulance paramedic, then as a nurse with Flight for Life Colorado, providing emergency medical care to fellow Coloradoans.

Then, in July of 2015, the unthinkable happened: a Flight for Life helicopter crashed with Repsher on board. The helicopter had just lifted off from St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco, CO, when it began spinning erratically. The pilot, Patrick Mahany, tried to regain control, but the copter spiraled down and crashed into a motor home in a nearby parking lot. Less than five seconds later, with fuel spilling onto the pavement, the helicopter burst into flames. Continue reading

(September 2017)

College student donates kidney, changes two lives

Layne Pachl and Sandi Elder

What could motivate a healthy, athletic, 20-year-old woman to voluntarily undergo surgery to remove a perfectly good kidney? If the answer were saving the life of a close friend or family member, it would be a little easier to understand. But what if the person in need of the kidney were a complete stranger?

Layne Pachl is that 20-year-old woman, and the recipient of her kidney, Sandi Elder, is no longer a stranger. The two are friends now—in fact, they consider each other family. In a successful surgery here at University of Colorado Hospital, Dr. Thomas Bak removed Layne Pachl’s kidney, and Dr. Trevor Nydam transplanted it to Sandi Elder, whose life was transformed by the operation. Layne, who was back to her active lifestyle within weeks, says the experience has been transformational for her as well. You can read the full story in the Greeley Tribune (includes video).

(July 2017)

Three-year-old receives liver transplant from Mom

Peri and Claire Erickson

Peri Erickson was born with biliary atresia, a rare disease that creates blockages in the bile ducts inside and outside the liver. Infants who suffer from this condition are unlikely to live more than 1-2 years without surgical intervention.

The best long-term treatment for biliary atresia is a liver transplant, but the wait for a donor organ can be a long one.

When Peri's mother, Claire Erickson, learned that she could donate a part of her own liver to her daughter, she didn't hesitate. She began making plans with her husband, Justin, to prepare for the double operation, which would take place far from their home in Red Lodge, Montana.

On March 21, at University of Colorado Hospital, Dr. Elizabeth Pomfret removed a fifth of Claire's liver. The tissue was taken immediately down the street to Children's Hospital Colorado, where Dr. Michael Wachs transplanted it to three-year-old Peri.

A month and a half later, mother and daughter are both doing well. You can learn more of their story in the media:

(May 2017)

More stories

For additional stories, visit the Department of Surgery's News Archive. To see only stories from the Transplant Division, use the filter feature or simply follow this link.

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