Transplant Registry International helps organ recipients navigate pregnancy

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Friday, May 11, 2018
Transplant Registry helps organ recipients navigate pregnancy
Transplant Registry helps organ recipients navigate pregnancy: Tamala Edwards reports during Action News at noon on May 11, 2018.

NORTHERN LIBERTIES (WPVI) -- This weekend, the spotlight will be on moms. They'll be treated to special gifts, meals and more for Mother's Day.

For a young Mayfair woman, being a mother has extra meaning.

"Isla is 5, and she's my princess. She wants to be dressed up, she wants her hair cut a certain way," says Rachel Riley. "Aevyn is my bulldozer. She will bulldoze through anything and everyone. Nothing fazes her," she adds.

Rachel relishes motherhood after being told for years it wasn't an option.

That's because, as a rebellious teen, Rachel let her diabetes go out of control.

"I stopped taking my insulin," she recalls, adding, "I just wanted to do what everybody else was doing, and eat what everyone else was eating."

In time, Rachel's kidneys failed and she needed a transplant. At 26, with a new kidney and committed to controlling her diabetes, Rachel got a green light to start a family.

Her doctors navigated the way, with the help of the Transplant Pregnancy Registry International.

The registry was created in 1991 by Dr. Vince Armenti at Jefferson University Hospital.

The reason was simple, says Howard M. Nathan, president and C.E.O. of the Gift of Life Donor Program.

"A great many people who had transplants wanted to have babies, and there was some fear the medications for anti-rejection would harm a pregnancy," says Nathan.

"The idea was to follow those people - mothers and fathers, and see what the outcome is," he continued.

Now in its 27th year, the registry, housed at the Gift of Life Donor Program, continues its studies of post-transplant pregnancy. It includes 4,300 pregnancies involving 2,500 transplant recipients - both mothers and fathers.

"The concept is to let people know, that with caution, they can not only have successful transplants, but a successful pregnancy and wonderful children," explains Nathan.

One important find - that the anti-rejection drug CellCept raises the risk of miscarriage. Moms-to-be switch to other drugs before pregnancy, and through breastfeeding.

Rachel's blood sugar and insulin levels were monitored even more closely.

"Because as your pregnancy progresses, everything changes - week to week sometimes, especially at the end," she says.

Data from the registry has also been presented in a thousand journals and medical meetings.

The registry's work is now benefiting a new generation.

"To not only see the transplant recipients have children, but now their children are having children," says Nathan.

Gift of Life and 6abc have a year-long sponsored partnership.

For more information on the registry, click here.

For more information on organ donation, see the Gift of Life Donor Program website.