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Division of Transplant Surgery


Liver transplant saves toddler

Manolo Gonzales

Twenty-four-year-old Rebecca LaSalle of Montana remembers her mother encouraging her every day as a child to go out and “make the world a better place.” Some might dismiss this as a sweet, well-intentioned cliché, but Rebecca grew up to put it powerfully into practice.

Last year, Rebecca chose to undergo surgery to donate part of her own liver to a needy recipient. She didn't know who the recipient would be; she just knew that she could save a life. (Nationwide, there are more than three times as many patients on the liver-transplant waiting list as there are available livers.) Rebecca's act of generosity was even more extraordinary in light of the fact that she had already donated a kidney in 2016. Continue reading

(June 2018)


Historic chain of kidney transplants performed at University of Colorado Hospital

Kidney donors and recipients

Derek Lewis, a single father in Highlands Ranch, had been battling kidney failure for more than ten years. He chose not to go on dialysis because it would mean too many hours apart from his children. He hoped to receive a kidney transplant, but the average wait time is several years.

Derek's girlfriend, Marishia, wanted to donate one of her kidneys to him, but when she got tested, she learned that she wasn't a match.

Elsewhere in Colorado, two other would-be kidney donors were in the same situation. Continue reading

(May 2018)


Gunbarrel woman saves four lives

Jackie Zampella

One of Dr. Thomas Bak’s recent patients, thirty-one-year-old Jackie Zampella of Gunbarrel, Colorado, didn’t know anyone experiencing kidney failure. What she did know was that she could save someone’s life by donating one of her own kidneys.

In Colorado alone, there are nearly 2,000 people on the waiting list for a lifesaving kidney transplant. Unfortunately, the available supply of kidneys from deceased donors is not large enough to meet the demand. Without living donors stepping forward, some of these patients will die.

For Jackie, that was reason enough to undergo surgery and give one of her healthy kidneys as a lifesaving gift to someone she had never met. Her kidney went to a man in Oregon, and thanks to a matching program that pairs donors and recipients across the country, that donation started a chain reaction that saved three other lives.

Read more of Jackie's story in the Left Hand Valley Courier.

(February 2018)


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)


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.

How to filter the list of stories in the News Archive


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