sanguinemare

November 21, 2011

Transplants

Filed under: Med School and the MSTP — sanguinemare @ 10:20 am
Tags: , ,

Throughout our labs and lectures, we talk about how people got a blood transfusion and were able to survive, or had organs resectioned (cut out) or received a transplant.  Today, I was reading in lab about how a patient got a living-related donor kidney transplant from his mother (which means she is still alive – this is possible because you can survive on just one kidney.  Liver is the other organ you can do this kind of transplant with, because the liver regenerates).

That got me thinking.  A lot of us would donate blood easily – just pop by the local blood bank, get a needle stuck in your arm for a little bit (*shudders*), wait a bit, and voila! Not too much pain, and you can feel good about possibly saving a life (or providing fodder for new-age vampires).  And many people also sign up to be organ donors if something should happen to them and they pass away.  That is very admirable – that they would give up their innards and other parts, because as they say, it wouldn’t be of use to them by then anyway.  (Although I must admit that after seeing those autopsy pictures of the removal process in class, I’m a little more queasy at the idea).

But when more substantial pain is involved, less and less people are eager to sign up.  The next step up would maybe be a bone marrow transplant – yes, signing up only takes a swab of the cheek to see if you are a match, but many of us have heard how painful it is, the bruising/aching it leaves behind, and just the idea of the big needle jabbing all the way to the bone is kind of freaky.  Yet some people with big hearts and courage greater than my own would sign up and volunteer.  And a step even greater are those who are willing to do what this mother did here – a living-related donor (LRD) transplant.  I guess it’s a testament to the extent of (a mother’s) love, that someone would be willing to go under the knife despite all the potential complications and the loss of one’s all organs for the chance to save or help another.  I say a chance because, as we are learning all too readily in med school, there is no guarantee that the patient won’t reject the transplant… which actually happened in this case.

I started thinking about my own life.  If my sister or my parents were in dire need – if they desperately needed a transplant and I was a match… would I be able to do that?  To say yes, take whatever you need?  I, with my fear of needles and high sensitivity to pain, the kind of person who put off her ACL surgery for two years just to try to avoid having her knee cut open and drilled through… would I be able to be so selfless?  Right now, all I can say is that I would probably be willing to go as far as a bone marrow transplant… but I don’t know yet if I could be a LRD.  Does that make me less of a doctor, that I would have these reservations?  I don’t know.  I hope not.

What about you?  How far would you be willing to go?

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Update: 
Huh, random fact of the day: we just learned in class today that when a kidney is transplanted, it’s not put back to where it usually is (around the lower back area), but instead is put near the groin area, next to the appendix.  Weird!  I wonder why?  Maybe so the urine doesn’t have to travel as far before it exits?

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