(Stanford, Calif.) — Weekends at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford can be busy, but one recent weekend in July yielded a remarkable 48-hour whirlwind of multiple organ transplants.
It started Friday night, July 17, when doctors separately performed a heart-lung transplant and a liver transplant at the hospital. The next day, three hours after completing the heart-lung surgery, the same surgeons performed a heart transplant on a baby. Then, on Sunday, a young girl got a new kidney, while in another operating room a young adult received a long-awaited liver.
To say it was an action-packed weekend would be an understatement.
“Five transplants in that amount of time is unusual in a children’s hospital,” said surgeon Carlos Esquivel, MD, PhD, chief of the division of transplantation and the Arnold and Barbara Silverman Professor in Pediatric Transplantation at the Stanford University School of Medicine. “But when it happens, we’re prepared. This really shows the depth of the institution and our transplant programs.” All of the organs came from deceased donors. Unlike with living donors, the hospital’s transplant teams don’t get much notice – or time – when a matching organ is located. Often, the organs come at a critical point for the patient, who may have been on the transplant waiting list for weeks, months or even years.
“Orchestrating these surgeries takes lots of quick planning and teamwork across the organization,” said Esquivel, who has been saving lives through transplantation for more than 30 years. It all starts with a call from Donor Network West, an organ procurement organization and one of the largest tissue-recovery organizations in the nation. They identify a donor and a match. From there, the teams begin a large and rapid mobilization of surgeons, anesthesiologists, operating room staff, transfusion services, lab technicians, social workers, bedside nurses, coordinators and dozens of other transplant-trained professionals – and, in this case, they had to do it five times in a very short period.
Ranked No. 1 in the nation in volume and outcomes, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and Stanford Children’s Health have developed protocols to ensure that communication and coordination is seamless during these fast-unfolding situations.
The heart-lung transplant on July 17, involving a gravely ill teen, was particularly rewarding. The patient’s lung was failing and he was in imminent danger of dying.
Cardiothoracic surgeons Katsuhide Maeda, MD, and Olaf Reinhartz, MD, led that successful surgery; the next day, they also performed the heart transplant on a baby. Also on that Saturday, surgeons Amy Gallo, MD, and Waldo Concepcion, MD, each guided respective kidney and liver transplants. Together, Concepcion, Esquivel and Andrew Bonham had transplanted a liver on that Friday – the first surgery to kick off the wave of five in those 48 hours.
It was a full weekend of lifesaving surgeries, but not quite a record for the transplant teams. That’s because in 2013, they performed five transplants in a 24-hour period. “When a donor organ is available, we ignore the clock and do whatever needs to be done,” said Gallo, assistant professor of surgery at the School of Medicine.
Now, all the patients are in various stages of recovery, and each is embarking on a new, healthier life. In the meantime, families are expressing thanks to the transplant teams, the power of organ donation, and the donor families who, while in the midst of tremendous grief, made a decision to save the lives of others.
* Find out how to register to be an organ donor at http://donatelife.net.
* At the Stanford School of Medicine, Olaf Reinhartz, MD, is associate professor of cardiothoracic surgery; Katsuhide Maeda, MD, is clinical assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery; Waldo Concepcion, MD, is professor of surgery; Amy Gallo, MD, is assistant professor of surgery; and Andrew Bonham is associate professor of surgery.