Calm heads made transplant surgery a wonder to witness

THEATRE Keith Graetz, consultant transplant surgeon right, during the operation. Inset, Claire Sharp, left, who donated a kidney to her older sister Bridget Malcolm. Pictures: Paul Jacobs
THEATRE Keith Graetz, consultant transplant surgeon right, during the operation. Inset, Claire Sharp, left, who donated a kidney to her older sister Bridget Malcolm. Pictures: Paul Jacobs

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As part of National Transplant Week, The News was given unprecedented access to observe part of a kidney tranplant. Health reporter PRIYA MISTRY gives an insight into what she saw.

It’s pure theatre, in every sense of the word.

Dressed in scrubs, I entered theatre 11, at Queen Alexandra Hospital, in Cosham, to witness an amazing procedure – a kidney transplant between two sisters.

I met Bridget Malcolm, 51, of Gosport, and Claire Sharp, 49, of Fareham, only a few days before to the operation, and although feeling emotional, both were mentally prepared for their life-changing procedure.

Claire donated her left kidney to Bridget, who suffers from acute polycystic kidney disease.

It took a few moments to spot Claire under the layers of sheets used to keep her protected.

The only exposed part was her stomach, where the surgeon entered through the belly button, using a hand-assisted laparoscope.

It’s an amazing bit of kit, allowing consultant transplant surgeon Keith Graetz to place his hand inside the body and have direct access to the kidney, without cutting her open further.

Two smaller holes were made to allow in a camera and tools to be used to detach the kidney from the body.

There was hardly any blood during the procedure, and the theatre was calm.

Magnified by a tiny camera, you see just how intricate our bodies are.

You see the details of tiny networks of veins and arteries carrying blood around, and bright yellow clumps of fat glow compared to the red of organs and tissue it surrounds.

Hidden beneath all that, the surgeons point out a pulse, as you see blood flowing through.

And Mr Graetz made it all look effortless.

Calmly he explained how he navigated to the kidney, and used tools to expertly cut away fat from the kidney.

Tiny staples were used to stem blood flow, so vein and artery connections could be cut.

The whole process took place in just under two hours.

The ‘drama’ took place when the last connection was cut, and the kidney was pulled out and taken to an ice tray, to be cleaned and prepared to be transplanted into Bridget.

And what does it mean for her?

It has saved her from hours of being hooked up to dialysis.

But more than that, it’s saved her life and given her a chance to live.

GET INVOLVED

NATIONAL Transplant Week is the annual UK-wide awareness week to increase understanding of organ donation.

It aims to encourage more people to join the donor register.

In Fareham, 18 people are awaiting an organ, in Havant 12 people are on the waiting list, Gosport has 16 and Waterlooville has 15.

In Portsmouth 32 people are waiting for an organ.

The News is running special reports all this week to encourage more people to sign the organ donor register.

A video has been made by NHSBT to explain the importance of becoming a donor.

The annual awareness week is run by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT).

This year its theme is Pass It On.

According to NHSBT, 95 per cent of families agree to donation if a loved one has discussed their wishes and is registered.

But this drops to only 46 per cent when donation wishes aren’t known.

To find out more call 0300 123 2323.