Special Delivery! Virtua Center for Organ Transplantation Gives Amazon Employee Second Chance at Life During Pandemic
Working for Amazon, Karlon Hickman helped ensure customers received their orders on time. On April 9, 2020, at Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Camden, Hickman received a special delivery of his own—a new kidney.
While many surgeries were placed on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, Virtua kept its transplant program operating, allowing patients the opportunity to receive a new kidney, pancreas, or liver. Virtua performed 22 transplants from the time COVID-19 took hold in the area in March 2020 through mid-July 2020.
“I was ready to go to bed. I saw this number pop up on my phone. It was the transplant coordinator, and she asked if I was willing to come to the hospital during COVID-19 for my transplant. I said sure, I’ve been on dialysis for five years,” said Hickman, 49, of Sicklerville, Camden County. “I was already separated from a lot of people. I wore a mask and kept my hands clean. I thought this could be my only chance.”
Hickman suffered from renal hypertension, and in January 2015 sought care at Virtua Voorhees Hospital after experiencing shortness of breath and ankle swelling. He was diagnosed with kidney failure and placed on dialysis.
Dialysis treatments at 5 a.m. three days a week left him exhausted, and he was listed for a transplant at Lourdes in November 2018. Hickman said he hoped he would receive a transplant this year, but feared the shutdown of other transplant programs in the region would leave him without a donor.
The Virtua team “did everything right. They kept me quarantined. It was a really good experience,” said Hickman. While he could not have visitors due to hospital safety protocols, “with technology, the phone and FaceTime, I could talk and see my family.”
Hickman spent nine days in the hospital. He is recovering and hopes to return to work at Amazon in September.
“I feel great. I don’t have to deal with dialysis,” he said. “I lost weight, but that will come back slowly. They said I could even start exercising.”
“Mr. Hickman is now off dialysis with normal kidney function. Overall, has done very well post-transplant,” said Virtua transplant nephrologist Anita Mehrotra, MD.
To learn more about organ transplantation at Virtua, visit www.virtua.org/OrganTransplant.
Updated January 13, 2022