Wiggins was 25 in 2003 when he was diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis, a disease that causes the body’s own immune system to attack the liver which can eventually lead to liver failure. In 2008 he underwent his first liver transplant.
He remained healthy for about five years. “Then I had my first rejection,” Wiggins said. The autoimmune hepatitis had returned and attacked his new liver. Medication helped, but by 2016 Wiggins needed another liver transplant.
This time, however, Wiggins kidneys were failing. While the reason wasn’t completely clear, his doctors surmised that it was due to the autoimmune hepatitis. Because there was concern that his kidney function would deteriorate even further if he had a second liver transplant, Wiggins now needed a kidney as well as a new liver. However, his local transplant team wouldn’t do the complex procedure. That’s when the Duke team stepped in.
“We know we can handle the sicker patients,” said Matt Ellis, MD, Medical Director of Duke’s kidney transplant program. “Our transplant surgeons are very experienced at transplanting both organs. And our hepatologists and nephrologists are experts at managing the anti-rejection medications needed to protect the transplanted organs and the patient.”