BRIGID O’CONNELL NEWS LIMITED APRIL 12, 2014 8:00PM
THE lives of three children have been saved in a surgical record at the Royal Children’s Hospital, with three organ transplants using three different organs completed with 24 hours.
Elective surgery lists were juggled and maydays sent out to on-call staff to rally 35 medical workers across three surgical teams to make the kidney, liver and heart transplants possible.
Nurse unit manager of RCH operating theatres, Jeramie Carson, said it was a mammoth logical exercise to co-ordinate staff and specialist equipment for the back-to-back surgeries.
“There is a time limit to which you can use the organ once it’s out of an active circulation. It’s not a surgery that will wait,” she said. “There were nine other theatres running. We never want to cancel a patient from having elective surgery in order to do a transplant, so we shuffle around as much as we can.”
Ms Carson said the hospital’s transplant co-ordinators were notified an organ had been found for a particular patient by Donate Life, after the donor’s medical details were cross-referenced with those on the wait list.
A patient’s size, blood type, age and other medical history is all taken into account when deciding who — among the 15,000 Australians on the official organ donor wait list — receives the precious organ.
The liver was retrieved by Austin Hospital surgeons and brought to the RCH, as part of Victorian Liver Transplant Unit, a partnership between the two hospitals.
In addition to being a paediatric surgical first, this operation was the fourth back-to-back liver transplant performed by this team.
“There was a huge buzz,” said unit head Professor Bob Jones.
“You can’t roster people on for this, so it requires a lot of people coming in from on-call. You depend on enthusiasm and commitment and there is a bit of excitement generated by that. Everyone likes the challenge.”
A number of nurses, surgeons and anaesthetists for the kidney transplant were found among staff already at work, while the on-call cardiac team was called back to the hospital.
Director of the RCH cardiac surgery unit, Associate Professor Christian Brizard, said he was always conscience that the joy of organ transplantation for one family meant grief for another.
“The transplant is always sad. Somebody dies, somebody lives. It’s always a sad story,” he said.
“You have to be very grateful to the family who has made that possible.”
All three transplant patients are doing well.