October 24 marks the 50th anniversary of the BC's first transplant.
In 1968, a surgical team at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) performed the province's first kidney transplant operation. The recipient lived an additional six years thanks to the donor kidney he received. It was one of only two transplants done in BC that year.
Fast-forward 50 years and transplants are on the rise. In 2017, 479 people in BC received life-saving organ transplants; 268 (56 per cent) of those were performed at VGH.
For three VGH clinicians, celebrating the anniversary means honouring the impact transplants have on patients and their families.
"We see people who are sick… who might never be well again, and as soon as they have the transplant, they get better," says VGH Urologist Dr. Chris Nguan, who performs more than 100 kidney transplants every year.
"Every patient has a story. It's their perspective that is so inspiring and keeps us doing what we're doing."
Dr. Nguan notes that his role is only a small part in the process.
"There are many people who make things happen before patients see me. My operating room (OR) colleagues and the pre- and post-transplant team work tirelessly."
At the centre of it all is making a difference for each patient. Just ask VGH OR nurse coordinator Raquel (Rackie) de Traversay. "It's an extremely rewarding experience to see patients given another chance at life," she says.
She has high words of praise for the donor families too. "It's a heroic act; allowing a loved one's death to save another's life is inspiring."
Rackie notes that the OR team holds a moment of silence before a transplant begins to honour the donor. "There are many emotional moments, especially if the donor is a young person. That can be tough. On the other hand, I often have the chance to meet with the recipient patient and their family before the surgery. It's a privilege to witness such happiness and hope."
Over her 26-year career, patient care coordinator Sharon Duncan has worked with thousands of transplant patients—including many living donors.
"To see the transformation from debilitation and long-term disease to the point where [patients] can return to work and do more normal things—things healthy people do… It's incredible," she says.
Learn more about how organ donation saves lives at transplant.bc.ca.
Animators dedicate film to staff at VGH