'Epic' day: 5 transplants in 24 hours

'Epic' day: 5 transplants in 24 hours

Transplant doctors and team members at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital knew it was going to be a hectic day when they reported for work on April 22. In fact, it would turn out to be a record-setting 24-hour period in which five transplant patients received two livers, two kidneys and a heart.

A bit more than a month later, doctors at the Stanford-affiliated hospital in Palo Alto, Calif., confirm that all five patients are recovering and doing well.

“We won’t forget this experience,” said transplantation chief Carlos Esquivel, MD, who’s been performing this type of surgery for 25 years. “It took quick planning and incredible teamwork by surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and care teams throughout the hospital,” he explained in a news release.

“We’ve done four in a day before, but never five,” added Louise Furukawa, MD, anesthesia resource coordinator. Transplants happen with little notice once donor organs become available, so Furukawa and Echo Rowe, MD, had huge roles quickly coordinating operating rooms, assigning staff, moving cases around and more. “Thanks to our team’s skill and experience, everyone knew where to be and what to do in order to be ready for an epic day,” Furukawa said in the release.

Here's how the day unfolded for the transplant team, some of whom are pictured on this page (left to right: Carlos Esquivel, MD; Louise Furukawa, MD; Amy Gallo, MD; Marc Melcher, MD; Olaf Reinhartz, MD; and Waldo Concepcion, MD).

5:08 a.m. on April 22 -- Esquivel led surgery to split the liver of a deceased organ donor so that it could be given to two recipients. In the meantime, Marc Melcher, MD, removed the diseased liver of a 2-year-old boy. Soon after, Esquivel implanted one portion of the split liver into the toddler.

5:18 a.m. on April 22 -- Waldo Concepcion, MD, began the transplant of the other portion of the split liver into a 15-year-old girl.

1:55 p.m. on April 22 -- Olaf Reinhartz, MD, started heart transplant surgery for a 3-year-old boy.

1:17 a.m. on April 23 -- Concepcion was back in surgery, this time transplanting a kidney into a 15-year-old boy.

1:27 a.m. on April 23 -- Amy Gallo, MD, began a kidney transplant for a 14-year-old girl.

Several hours prior to each transplant, surgery teams from Packard Children’s traveled to other hospitals to procure the donor organs.

“This was the ultimate demonstration of the passion we have for healing children through transplant,” said Concepcion, who once led five kidney transplants in two days. “Care teams throughout the hospital immediately got into it. Experience matters, and they all put in lots of extra hours in order to ensure everything would go smoothly.” Concepcion also noted that other surgeons postponed scheduled cases to make room for the transplants. “It was impressive but not surprising,” he said in the news release. “Everyone was thrilled to see so many transplants save so many lives in such a short period of time.”

Of course, the gift of organ donation keeps on giving. That’s why later on April 23 -- while intensive care specialists were busy managing the patients’ post-transplant recovery -- surgeon Reinhartz was back at it. At 3:00 p.m. that day, he returned to the hospital’s Ford Family Surgery Center to lead the transplant of a donor heart to save the life of a baby.

With a hospital record already in the books, perhaps another was in process: six transplants in 36 hours.

Photo credit: Business Wire.