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Liver Transplant

September 5, 2013

One of the true miracles of modern life is transplant surgery. Could there be a more thrilling example of medicine than the ability to transfer parts from one person to another so that someone can live? One hindrance to the wider use of transplants is the shortage of donors. In most cases, the donor has to die on a The Liver – Gray's Anatomy 1918hospital operating table if the organs are to have any use. It doesn't matter how many living wills you make or how many donor cards you carry or how good your intentions, if you die at home or even in the ambulance it is unlikely that anything except maybe your corneas will be transplantable. There are limited opportunities for living donors because there are organs that we just can't live without (which is why transplants are needed), and this really only applies to kidneys, skin and blood. It is early days yet, but work is progressing on performing liver transplants from living donors, as the liver will regrow if it is not too badly damaged.

There was a case a few years ago (2004) in Canada where a woman named Edith Petes provided a portion of her liver for a workmate, Zahir Ismail. Zahir was 51 years old and his liver had been destroyed by Hepatitis C. Nobody knows for sure, but it appears that he may have contracted hepatitis from a vaccination he received as a child in Kenya. He left Kenya when he was a teenager and settled in Canada in 1984 to study for his PhD. Unfortunately, the transplant was not successful and he died eight days after the operation from complications arising from the surgery. His wife Alison and the donor Edith were equally devastated at his death, and they share a bond which cannot even be imagined by the rest of us.

Zahir Ismail was 51 years old and received the suspect injection in the early 1950s in Kenya, which could hardly have been described as being in the forefront of world-standard medical care at the time. And how did Meryl Dorey, President of the Australian Vaccination Network, report this story of courage, medical wonder and ultimate tragedy? She released the story under the heading "Another victim of unsafe vaccines". I had to buy a new keyboard because I couldn't get the vomit out of the old one.

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