Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Happy 30th Anniversary Lung Transplants!

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first successful lung transplant!

In 1983, Toronto General Hospital had its first long-term single lung transplant.  It was the 45th transplant attempt at the hospital and the first to be a real success as the man (known forever as 'patient 45') lived for 6 years post-transplant compared to the 44 previous counterparts who only lived for than a few days or weeks.

I am beyond thankful that I live at a time and place where lung transplants are an actual possibility. There have been so many advances in medicine and science in the last 30 years that it is incredible the difference in the level of care one receives today compared to 30 years ago. Not even just for transplants, care has improved for people with CF or diabetes or heart conditions or cancer or pretty much everything.

Thirty years ago, lung transplants were still an experiment that were tried on a few people who were gutsy enough to try a breakthrough procedure. It is hard to say whether or not I would have been able to commit to that kind of procedure 30 years ago. I like having stats with the odds to be in my favor too much to imagine being confident in trying something completely new. At the same time, if I was facing my impending death and had no other choice, I might go for it. If someone offered me a chance to 3D print myself new lungs today, I would be all over that in a heartbeat.

It makes me wonder what incredible technology and medicine they will have 30 years from now. Obviously they should have perfected 3D organ printing that they will be able to print new organs (They have successfully printed a kidney). But will gene therapy be advanced to the point where it can eliminate the symptoms of CF? Will people with CF even need lung transplants anymore? Or will they have some new technology that I can't even fathom?

I have moments where I wish that science could hurry up and make their discoveries faster so I can take advantage of them while I have the chance. Then I feel bad for having a pity part because I'm sure the 44 people before 'patient 45' felt the same way or much worse. I can't complain when the first month post-transplant survival rate has gone from 50% in the 90's to 95% today. That is pretty damn good when you consider how hard it is to transplant lungs. We hear about transplants so much now that we barely think about how amazing it is that we have the capability to take the incredibly fragile delicate lungs out of one person and put them in the body of a second person and have that person live for many years afterwards. Science is awesome.

So Happy 30th Anniversary lung transplants!

Here is the CBC article about Patient 45.
Read more about the history of the lung transplant

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