Kelly’s Journey Comes Full-Circle at UC Health

Hughes Family

“I didn’t expect to land here. Everything has come full-circle. I walk the same halls I used to, but now I am the one helping patients. I’m not a patient, or a mother of a patient. I am someone who can help.”

Kelly Hughes joined the UC Health transplant team after a decade-long journey that began when her youngest daughter, Heather, was born at 30.5 weeks on Dec. 18, 2005. Weighing in at just three pounds, two ounces, Heather spent the first six weeks of her life in the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) at UC Medical Center. The care that the NICU team provided made Hughes feel like she, and her new baby, were part of the NICU family.

“The nurses become moms to the babies, especially when the actual mothers can’t be there,” Hughes said. With three daughters to take care of at home, she was grateful for the care that the staff provided to her youngest child.

Now, Heather is Hughes’ “little spitfire.” At 11 years old, she is small for her age, but still plays soccer and made her school’s honor roll.

Hughes’ connection to UC Health deepened in 2007, when her husband passed away unexpectedly. She was honored that he was able to be a tissue donor to improve the lives of others in need of care.

“I still have the letter from LifeCenter, thanking us for his donation,” Hughes said. Shortly thereafter, she became part of the UC Health family from the other side, becoming a certified medical assistant and joining the transfer center.

A year ago, Hughes moved to the liver transplant team as a post-liver transplant assistant. “I assist with the coordination of care, from scheduling labs and appointments to making sure patients have their medication to just keeping track of them and making sure they are okay,” she said.

Earlier this year, things truly came full circle as Hughes’ 15-year-old daughter, Hanna, received partially donated tissue to repair torn ligaments in her knee. Angelo Colosimo, MD, UC professor of orthopaedic surgery, performed the repair.

At every step of her journey, both as patient, mother and, finally, as a provider, Hughes has found that UC Health is all about family.

“As a family, the NICU team took care of my child. Now, I am able to be family taking care of our transplant patients every day.”

Now We Join in Celebration

As we celebrate 50 years of providing excellence in transplantation, breakthrough treatments and compassionate coordination of care to the region, we invite you to join us in a 50-day countdown to the anniversary of the first surgery that launched Cincinnati’s most comprehensive transplant program.

Celebrate with us by sharing our stories of transplantation with your social media network using #UCHealthTransplant via FacebookTwitter or Instagram!

For more information about UC Health transplant services, please visit