Five organ transplants in 24 hours sets Packard Children's record

- By Robert Dicks

Robert Dicks description of photo

Two livers, two kidneys and a heart were transplanted over a period of 24 hours thanks to (from left) Carlos Esquivel, Louise Furukawa, Amy Gallo, Marc Melcher, Olaf Reinhartz and Waldo Concepcion.

Mondays are always busy, but this one stands out.

In a whirlwind of team heroics, physicians at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital performed five organ transplants within 24 hours. "We've done four in a day before, but never five," said Louise Furukawa, MD, clinical associate professor of anesthesia.

Transplants happen with little notice once donor organs become available, so Furukawa and Echo Rowe, MD, a clinical assistant professor of anesthesia, played big roles in quickly coordinating operating rooms, assigning staff, moving cases around and more.

The physicians have announced that all the surgeries were a success and that the patients are recovering well. "We won't forget this experience," said Carlos Esquivel, MD, professor of surgery and chief of abdominal transplantation. "It took quick planning and incredible teamwork by surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and care teams throughout the hospital."

It started early on April 22:

  • 5:08 a.m.:  Esquivel leads surgery to split the liver of a deceased organ donor so that it can be given to two recipients. Meanwhile, Marc Melcher, MD, assistant professor of surgery, removes the diseased liver of a 2-year-old boy. Soon after, Esquivel implants one portion of the split liver into the toddler.
  • 5:18 a.m.: Waldo Concepcion, MD, professor of surgery, begins the transplant of the other portion of the split liver into a 15-year-old girl.
  • 1:55 p.m.: Olaf Reinhartz, MD, associate professor of surgery, starts heart-transplant surgery on a 3-year-old boy.
  • April 23, 1:17 a.m.: Concepcion is back in surgery, this time transplanting a kidney into a 15-year-old boy.
  • 1:27 a.m.: Amy Gallo, MD, clinical assistant professor of surgery, begins 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. "Everyone was thrilled to see so many transplants save so many lives in such a short period of time."

The following day, April 23, while intensive care specialists were busy managing the patients' post-transplant recovery, surgeon Reinhartz was back at it. At 3 p.m., 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.

Which adds up to six transplants in 36 hours.

Robert Dicks is the senior media relations director for Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.

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