Nine organs, seven patients, and one calendar day: This is the new state record for organ transplants set by Baylor University Medical Center caregivers on September 1.
About 150 personnel, both on surgical teams and support staff, pitched in to help Baylor surpass the previous record of eight organ transplants in a day. The hospital was a few hours shy of flying past the record—in the early morning hours of September 2, Baylor surgeons performed another three organ transplants, bringing the total to 12.
“We have done this for over 30 years, so we have an extraordinarily experienced strike team here; a Seal Team 6 type set up here,” said Dr. Goran Klintmalm, chief and chairman of the Simmons Transplant Institute with Baylor. “We had a large number of rooms going at once and…you really have to have the capacity, not just in the rooms, but with the anesthesia, with the nurses. And then afterward to put them in the ICU.”
The transplant process requires many moving pieces. When a surgeon gets notice that a deceased patient is a donor, they get the recipient in the hospital and have support staff prepare for surgery. The surgeon books a flight to wherever the donor is and verifies that the organ is intact enough for transport and for transplantation. The surgeon then boards a return flight with the organ and heads back to Baylor for surgery.
In all, the dozen patients were from Louisiana, Georgia, and all over Texas. The transplants came from two living donors and 10 deceased. The surgeries performed included one heart transplant, two lung transplants (one double lung and one single), three kidney transplants, and three multi-organ transplants (liver/kidney).
Two patients received organs from living donors, a process that had already been mapped out ahead of time. After cross matching and testing to make sure there were no potential health risks to either the donor or the patient, the hospital set the dates and the surgeries took place as originally planned. These procedures wound up using two rooms, and the liver had to be moved from one operating room to the other, Klintmalm said.
Michael Mitchell, a state trooper from Georgetown outside Austin, traveled more than 150 miles for his lung transplant. In April, he went through preliminary testing to ensure he was healthy enough but not too sick to be put on the organ transplant waiting list. Mitchell was placed on the waiting list on July 30.
On August 19 Mitchell went through a dry run—where an organ is more closely evaluated while the patient is in the hospital to be prepped for a potential transplant—and returned home without a new lung. While that organ was not a match, Mitchell did not have much longer to wait. He was one of the September 2 patients and received his new lung from a deceased donor.
Darrell Franklin, of Atlanta, was one of the two patients to receive a kidney from a living donor. His wife, Talitha Middlebrook-Franklin, stepped up to the plate: “It wasn’t even a question,” she said.
In April, the Franklins started the cross matching process to see if his body would accept her kidney. Once the match was confirmed and she was determined to be in good health, the couple picked a date. It was serendipitous that they were a part of the record-breaking September 1.
“This is a great day, a great celebration of life,” said Klintmalm.
The Baylor Annette C. and Harold C. Simmons Transplant Institute has successfully transplanted more than 8,200 organs over the last 30 years.