Life Stories

Transplant recipients gather at University of Chicago Medicine to encourage organ donation

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CHICAGO — A Chicago hospital on Wednesday brought together four heart-lung-kidney transplant survivors in an effort to encourage people to register as organ and tissue donors.

At a news conference held by University of Chicago Medicine, the four who received the rare triple-organ transplants at the hospital since December of last year appeared in the hopes of raising awareness the surgery that saved their lives. Two others also had the surgery and are also recovering.

“For me, organ donation is the beauty of life. It represents hope, faith and joy,” said Daru Smith, 30, of Chicago, who had a triple transplant last December. “It’s unexplainable, not only what it can do for an individual, but for a family.”

“Those considering organ donation can just look to us to see the transformational impact it can have on other people,”said Apurva Patel, a 45-year-old father of two from Washington, D.C. who underwent the surgery last June.

The four, along with doctors at the hospital, gathered in part to underline the grim reality that about 20 people of the more than 113,000 waiting for transplants in the United States die every day. But the four also stood as a testament to the fact that despite the rarity of heart-liver-kidney transplants — 23 have been performed in the United States since the first one at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in 1989 — they have repeatedly been successfully done.

In Chicago alone, doctors at the University of Chicago Medicine have performed the surgery on 10 people since 1990. Eight are still alive.