Transplant center has shortest wait time

By Jeff Hansel

JACKSONVILLE, FLA. — The "sickest of the sick" arrive at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Jacksonville with hopes of getting kidney, liver, heart, lung or pancreas transplants.

The hospital opened April 12, along with its new transplant center.

Mayo in Jacksonville touts one of the largest transplant programs in the Southeast, while at the same time "maintaining above-national-average survival rates."


"Last year we did actually more solid-organ transplants than Rochester," according to Dr. Thomas Gonwa, a transplant surgeon at Mayo in Jacksonville. But the rankings are more about statistics than stature.

"We all work together. We have joint grand rounds. We have joint conferences," Gonwa said.

With liver transplants, where it maintains a prolific program, more than 200 people a year receive an organ, with survival rates that are statistically higher than the national average.

"Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville has the shortest wait time to transplant (1.1 months) of all adult liver transplant programs in the country," the clinic boasts.

Patient Rod Lee had a kidney transplant at Mayo in Rochester before the Jacksonville program began in 1998. Florida patients are excited about the new center, he said.

"Mayo has a wonderful reputation for medical care and their reputation for this transplant program here is just tremendous," he said.

Lee stayed at the Gift of Life Transplant House in Rochester and now serves as a volunteer bookkeeper for a similar program in Jacksonville.

On any given night, he said, 30 to 50 people stay in Jacksonville awaiting a transplant or providing care for someone who is. St. Andrews Lighthouse, which is similar to Gift of Life, has a capacity of only seven or eight people.


"Now that the hospital is open, we’re real anxious to talk with some of their senior management people at Mayo Jacksonville," Lee said. "Our desire is to build on the Mayo Clinic campus around a 20-bed transplant house."

Lifelong bonds between medical providers and patients that seem almost familial form when transplants occur.

"When you transplant them, they’re your family. And the patients don’t want to go anywhere else," Gonwa said.

Federal rules require lifelong follow-up by transplant centers.

"We’re very proud of this program," said Operations Administrator Susan Umerley.

What To Read Next
Get Local