Wednesday, December 29, 2010

First live kidney donor dies at 79 (56 years after donating to his twin)

Ronald Lee Herrick became the first live kidney donor when, as a college freshman, he donated a kidney to his twin.
Here's the Globe obit: World's first organ donor dies at 79
"On Dec. 23, 1954, Dr. Joseph Murray removed a kidney from Ronald and implanted it in Richard. Years later, Murray shared a Nobel Prize for his groundbreaking work. For the Herrick twins, the results were more immediate and personal. Ronald gave Richard about eight more years of life.

"The older and more serious of the twins, Ronald Herrick didn't talk about his key role in opening a new venue in medicine unless someone asked, and even then he had to be drawn out if the conversation lasted more than a few sentences. Unassuming and modest, he taught math for decades in high school, junior high, and college. On the side, he kept his hand in farming because he grew up on a family farm and loved the physical work of agriculture.

"Mr. Herrick, who suffered from heart ailments that prompted him to retire from teaching and farming in 1997, died Monday in the Augusta Rehabilitation Center in Augusta, Maine, where he was recuperating from heart surgery in October. He was 79 and lived in Belgrade, Maine."

Here's another account: First successful organ donor dies
"Ronald Lee Herrick, who became a medical pioneer in 1954 when he donated a kidney to his twin brother in what is considered the world’s first successful organ transplant, has died at the age of 79.

"The native of Rutland, Mass., died in Augusta, Maine, on Monday, while recovering from heart surgery. A retired math teacher in Northborough before moving to Maine, he was quiet about his role in the groundbreaking operation at the former Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston. His gift created a new field of medicine, as this Globe story says.

"I didn't think too much about it," Herrick said during an interview when the 50th anniversary of the operation was celebrated in 2004. "We had all kinds of meetings beforehand. I agreed, and there was no real problem."

"When the identical twins were 23 years old, Ronald’s brother Richard was dying of chronic kidney inflammation.

"Organ transplants had been attempted before, but they had failed. Kidney specialists at the Brigham believed taking a kidney from an identical twin would avoid the recently recognized problem of rejection, in which the recipient's immune system attacks the transplanted organ as foreign.

"The doctors -- including Dr. Joseph E. Murray, who later won the Nobel Prize in medicine -- were right. The operation was a success and Richard, a Coast Guard veteran who had been failing while on an early form of dialysis, recovered, married his recovery room nurse, and became the father of two children. He died of a heart attack eight years later.

"Here was a person who was near death and was able to return to normal life," Dr. Michael J. Zinner, chief of surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital, the successor to Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, said in 2004. "This ushered in a new era, when surgery would no longer simply be used to treat acute illnesses like appendicitis or a traffic accident (injury) but now could be used to treat a chronic illness and make patients better."

HT: Steve Leider

No comments: