One altruistic donor, six hospitals hundreds of specialists and seven transplant patient lives saved
"All 14 patients involved in Australia’s first seven-way paired kidney swap have recovered well after the transplants at Victoria’s Monash Medical Centre and Royal Melbourne and Austin hospitals, in co-ordination with NSW’s Westmead, Prince of Wales and John Hunter hospitals.
For five anxious hours, the team battled to overcome a “hiccup” when a malfunctioning aircraft was forced to return to Sydney mid-flight with a Melbourne-bound kidney, but still managed to complete the operations safely on November 19.
After three months’ planning, Australian Paired Kidney Exchange Program director Professor Paolo Ferrari said the transplants were “an amazing team effort”.
“It is always an effort when you have two, three, four or, in this case, seven,” Prof Ferrari said.
“Although this occurred recently, the actual match-up that told us there was a possibility for these patients to have a kidney transplant first came in August. Because of the excitement on that day — mostly because of the complexity of having all the centres involved and the little hiccup — there was a lot of tension.
"At 8am, simultaneous operations began in seven operating theatres in the three Melbourne and three Sydney hospitals, as the first stage to remove the kidneys from the donors.
The second-stage operations began at a Melbourne hospital at 12.23pm when an organ couriered across town was taken off the ice and implanted into a lucky recipient.
Five other synchronised transplants occurred progressively across the two cities over the afternoon as the kidneys arrived via Qantas flights and StarTrack couriers.
But a problem with an anaesthetic machine delayed one Sydney retrieval and the kidney had to be placed on a flight 30 minutes later than planned.
The problem was compounded when the aircraft developed its own issues mid-flight and had to return to Sydney with its precious cargo.
Five hours later, the kidney finally arrived in Melbourne still in good health, where the Austin Hospital team led by Associate Professor Frank Ierino was able to begin the final transplant at 9.30pm."