U Hopsital proud of cutting-edge technology

By By Natalie Hale

By Natalie Hale

A flurry of movement erupts as John Sorenson, chief of the U Hospital Transplant Center removes a rosy pink kidney from a live donor’s body.

The team of doctors and nurses in the operating room fall into silence as Sorenson and senior resident Kevin Bruen begin to inspect it-only the soft echo of the radio and steady beeping of the patients monitor can be heard as they delicately prepare it for transplantation.

The fist-sized organ is iced and placed into a small metal jar-where it is carried into the adjacent operating room.

Sorenson is quiet, his steps rapid but steady.

A life-changing moment was about to occur.

If this kidney transplant is successful, the patient’s life will significantly improve; he will never need to do dialysis again and will be given a new lease on life.

The organ waits as Jason Schwartz, the surgeon operating on its recipient, makes final preparations for transplantation.

It is moments like these that make the biggest difference for Schwartz.

“To be able to give a patient hope and some sense of normalcy and their kids a chance to grow up with a daddy-to make that difference in their lives is what keeps me doing this,” Schwartz said.

The U transplant center has been caring for patients in need of organs since 1965. The kidney was the first organ the center transplanted, and over the years they have added hearts, livers, lungs and bone marrow to the list.

In December, pancreas transplantation was approved as well-which the center plans to offer in the upcoming months.

Schwartz and Sorenson said they desire for the center to be nationally recognized.

To do so, they are trying to push the limits of what is currently possible in organ transplantation, Schwartz said.

While practicing at the Mayo Clinic, Schwartz spent time studying a rare and new technique that allows patients who have incompatible blood or tissue types to still receive an organ.

“We are trying new, cutting-edge things,” Schwartz said. “We are transplanting organs into people who couldn’t receive one before.”

Schwartz also brought with him another technique-a special liver transplant for patients who suffer from a rare, but deadly bile duct cancer.

It allows for a new liver to be transplanted into the cancer patient, essentially curing their cancer, Schwartz said.

“This is a landmark new therapy,” Schwartz said. “We have an 86 percent survival rate within five years because of it, which is a remarkable achievement.”

Shorter waiting lists for transplants are also a benefit to the center-as most patients wait approximately only 12 to 13 months for a donor, Schwartz said.

Part of becoming a well-respected and known program is the center’s coupling with the U’s medical school, allowing medical students to be trained in these rare techniques that are practiced only at the U hospital, Sorenson said.

The center also maintains a large research department that is studying everything from a potential cure for type-one diabetes to investigating the cause of hypertension; something that Schwartz said is an important part of the program.

“We make an impact,” Sorenson said. “We have the opportunity to be able to save a person’s life.”

As Schwartz lowered the kidney into the recipient’s body, the room grew quiet.

A second chance at life had been granted.

Kim Peterson

Kim Peterson

Kim Peterson