Thursday, December 30, 2010

Living Donor Pioneer Dies

I was going to write about something else today but I thought that this was an interesting article about really brave man.  I can't imagine how much controversy and concern what he did would have caused back in late 1954. I bet he had to deal with a lot of Negative Nellies! The fact that what he and his brother did (with the help of their doctors of course) has lead to thousands if not hundreds of thousands of successful transplants (kidneys and otherwise) is amazing. I would think that indirectly, advances in transplants have also impacted other fields of medicine as thing does lead to another sometimes. Organ donations aside, I've always admire people who take risks like this for the greater good-I've never been that brave. I can't imagine making a choice like this without an internet to us for research or even a fraction of the medical knowledge we have today being available to the general public.

On a side note, if the first successful living donor made it to 79, I think that bodes well for people like me who also chose to donate, especially with the advancements in medicine.
Here is his story (borrowed from the UK Daily Mail):

A kidney donor who helped doctors carry out the world’s first successful organ transplant has died following heart surgery at the age of 79.

The brothers in 1955, six months post op
 Ronald Lee Herrick, whose gift  helped his twin brother Richard survive 56 years ago, had been suffering from complications since his operation in October. He died on Monday at the Augusta Rehabilitation Centre in Augusta, Georgia, his wife Cynthia said. Mr Herrick gave a kidney to his twin brother at what is now Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. The five-and-a-half-hour operation on December 23, 1954, kept Mr Herrick's brother alive for eight years and was the first successful organ transplant. Lead surgeon Dr Joseph Murray went on to win a Nobel Prize.

The operation proved that transplants were possible and led to thousands of other successful kidney transplants and ultimately the transplant of other organs. Doctors had tried a handful of transplants worldwide without success up to that point, said Dr Murray, who went on to perform another 18 transplants between identical twins.‘This operation rejuvenated the whole field of transplantation,’ the 91-year-old said from his home in Wellesley, Massachusetts. ‘There were other people studying transplants in four or five different countries, but the fact that it worked so well with the identical twins was a tremendous stimulus.’
Herrick was raised on a family farm in Rutland, Massachusetts, where he graduated high school. He later served in the U.S. Army and retired to Belgrade, Maine. At 23, Mr Herrick was glad to give up an organ if it would help his brother, who was dying from chronic nephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys.
Dr Murray thought the odds of a transplanted organ being accepted would be enhanced since they were identical twins. Before the operation, many people opposed the idea of transplanting a body organ, equating it with desecration of a body.

Others felt it was unethical to operate on healthy humans, and respected editors of medical journals wrote that it was contrary to the Hippocratic Oath's vow to never do harm to anyone. But Mr Herrick never wavered and the operation went on as planned with no complications. Richard met his future wife, Clare, in the recovery room, where she was a nursing supervisor. ‘He was the only one in the world who could save his brother's life, so he was going to do it,’ said Cynthia Herrick. ‘There was no question about it.’


  1. Thank-you for sharing this story.

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