It began in the early afternoon of March 3 when the news was received that a liver was available for a patient who needed both a heart and a liver transplant. From there, it cascaded into the completion of five liver transplants within a span of 24 hours.
Charles Rosen, M.D., a Mayo transplant surgeon, tells us that each year, Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus typically performs two or three transplant clusters, where more than one transplant is performed in a single day. “We do a little over 100 deceased donor transplants and around 20 living donor transplants a year,” he says.
“What was truly remarkable about that particular day is that this was the first time we have done five liver transplants within a 24-hour period, and this required a lot of communication and teamwork,” says Dr. Rosen. That communication happened not just among the Mayo Clinic employees but between donor hospitals several to coordinate travel arrangements for the various Mayo Clinic procurement teams to bring the donor organs to Rochester.
“We were challenged by the time constraints of transplantation, separation of our team with staffing of overlapping transplants at the Saint Marys and Methodist OR sites, and all of the uncertainties of timing that come with procurement procedures performed at four different donor hospitals, with two being out of our region,” says Dr. Rosen.
When Dr. Rosen received the call that the first liver had become available and determined it was viable for the patient, things were set in motion. He worked with LifeSource, the organ and tissue donation organization that serves Minnesota and the Dakotas, to coordinate the organ procurements and transportation. Teams were then dispatched to the states where the organs were located.
“We knew we had to get busy and we only had a few hours to prepare and call each other. Our anesthesia staff was able to step in and help one another. Our OR staff was able to do the same,” says Dr. Rosen. “My surgery and hepatology partners, and our fellows knew to stand by, ready to help, and they rescheduled clinics and other commitments so that they could be available.”
Dr. Rosen perhaps said it best in an email he sent to the entire team after the transplants had been completed. “At no time did I ever perceive that any of you thought it could not be done. Everyone – fellows, staff, nurses, and assistants – were extremely helpful and willing to support and relieve each other. Your teamwork was simply spectacular. Your skill and knowledge, your calm and caring demeanor, professionalism, and most of all – your dedication to our patients – are what enables us to achieve success and provide the best possible care to our patients. We are a great team, and I am very proud of you.”
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