Thursday, August 1, 2013


Time can fly, especially for transplant recipients. Remember the buzz and controversy surrounding former Vice President Richard Cheney's heart transplant on March 24, 2012 at the age of 71? That news story essentially quieted down after a few weeks. No-one at the national level seemed to notice when the major transplant landmarks of one year graft and patient survival were happily met 4 months ago. And there has been no celebration of his high level return to political life that has occurred insidiously, with interviews and occasional speechs (Dick Cheney full return to active politics 6/16/13 ) popping up. There has been no attribution of his active lifestyle to either the deceased donor's gift, or to the hard work of the transplant team, in part or in whole. What has happened is quite simple. He has re-engaged in his life. Transplantation, the donor's heart, the amazing anti-rejection medications (which the Vice President must be taking reliably) are combining to restore a man's ability to live his life. Whether his politics match yours or not, he is living up to his own previous standards of outspoken opinions on hot, important topics. This is the magic of transplant. If the VP is lucky (and adheres to medical advice and medications, etc) we won't have particular reason to notice his next benchmarks at 3 years either!

In follow-up of a different transplant, Grzegorz is not a name that will ring bells for most of us. But you will surely recognize the images taken shortly after he received Poland's first face transplant on May 15, 2013. You will also recall the horrific story of a stone cutting machine causing the trauma that induced his emergent need for that transplant. The terrific follow-up news came today that he has gone home, breathing and eating on his own a mere 11 weeks after the transplant. The report is that he is also speaking, although the words are still a bit difficult to understand. His speech is expected to improve as the nerves regenerate to the muscles in the transplanted face. The process is likely already underway as he is experiencing pins and needles in his cheeks. Although standardized goals and benchmarks have not yet been fully established for face transplants, 1 and 3 year patient and graft survival are likely to be selected. We will surely breathe a collective sigh of relief when Grzegorz meets the first of these, won't we?

The final follow-up to be reviewed in this posting is not a happy one, but pertains to a story that is likely also familiar to you, the live donor kidney that was inadvertently discarded and wasted in a tragic human error in 2012. Both the live donor and recipient are reportedly well. A transplant did subsequently occur with a different kidney, but the family has now sued the original transplant hospital.

Life goes on. When donation and transplantation are the causes of life going on for recipients we should be especially grateful. Not necessarily mentioning it at every moment of every day........but at least acknowledging from time to time that life can never be taken for granted. And when someone gives so that one or more recipients may benefit, a beautiful thing has taken place.