By Emma Teitel - Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 0 Comments
Heart disease ran in the family; he had survived three heart attacks, and a heart transplant
Ronald Alan Sept was born on Jan. 11, 1946, in Medicine Hat, Alta. His parents, Albert and Anne Sept, were farmers from Maple Creek, a rural Saskatchewan town, some 85 km southeast of Medicine Hat. Ron, the first of two children (his sister Carol would come five years later) was milking cows and feeding chickens at age five. He liked to ride horses, herd cattle and help his mom bake cookies. But his favourite pastime was music. When Ron was 7, he took up the accordion and couldn’t put it down. He was so skilled after just two weeks that his teacher sent him home: “The teacher said ‘He’s gonna teach me!’ ” Ron told his family.
On Christmas Eve, 1958, when Ron was 12, his dad suffered a heart attack and died. Things changed quickly for the Septs. Anne rented the family farm to her brother and moved Ron and Carol to Medicine Hat, where she found work in a hospital kitchen. Ron grew up overnight, helping with chores, getting Carol ready for school. But he wasn’t all that interested in school. As a teen he often missed class—intent on making a living, not getting a diploma. One day, when he was 16, he skipped school to help a friend deliver milk. Ron was in the passenger seat of his friend’s milk truck when another driver ran a stop sign and smashed into them. Ron went flying through the windshield. Miraculously, his only injury was a cut on his forehead; this, however, wouldn’t be the last time he dodged death. Continue…
By Michael Friscolanti - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 11:20 AM - 0 Comments
Selling human organs is illegal, but would money be an incentive to get donors?
Last year, 285 Canadians died while waiting for an organ transplant. At last count, another 4,660 are staring at the same fate, desperate for a donor to save their lives. Yet despite so many public awareness campaigns (and the odd tweet from celebrities like Justin Bieber) donation rates in Canada are essentially the same today as they were in 2006: dismal.
A new study out of Alberta is asking the inevitable—but controversial—question: is it time to start paying people for their lungs, kidneys and hearts?
It is illegal, of course, to buy and sell organs or human tissue. But if the latest research is any indication, Canadians are willing to at least explore the idea of financial incentives—whether it be cash, tax breaks, or reimbursed funeral expenses. “It’s a difficult subject to broach, but I think we could get over that,” Dr. Braden Manns, the study’s co-author, told one newspaper reporter. “With the current system, where we ask people to come forward out of the goodness of their heart, we are clearly not getting enough organs.”
The researchers surveyed 2,004 Canadians, 339 health professionals, and 269 people affected by kidney disease. Members of the public were most open to the payout plan, with 70 per cent supporting the concept for deceased donors and 45 per cent saying it’s acceptable for living donors. (Health care workers were least receptive to the idea, at just 14 per cent.)
How exactly would it work? What would be the going rate for a healthy lung? Would such a program mostly attract the unsavoury and the desperate, such as drug addicts? Those questions are for another study. But Mann is certain about one thing. “We’re not talking about buying and selling organs in a hotel room in a shady area of Calgary,” he said. “What we’re talking about is a third-party regulator that would offer compensation.”
And if that regulated market ever becomes a reality, it could prove to be a literal life saver.
By Cathy Gulli - Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 11:20 AM - 0 Comments
A Vancouver doctor is working on a blood test to detect acute and chronic rejection of organ transplants, or predict its occurrence
Ask a heart or kidney transplant patient about the worst part of recovery and they’ll often say it’s the biopsies to ensure they aren’t rejecting the new organ. “It’s about fear, discomfort, inconvenience, minor risks,” says Dr. Bruce McManus, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of British Columbia. So he is working to make this necessary evil much less awful.
With his team at the Prevention of Organ Failure Centre of Excellence (Proof Centre) in Vancouver, McManus is developing a blood test to detect acute and chronic rejection, or predict its occurrence. Since starting their research in 2003, the scientists have identified a collection of blood molecules, known as biomarkers, that indicate when an individual is a “rejector” and when they are not, says McManus, director of the Proof Centre. He hopes the blood tests will be widely used in hospitals by the late summer of 2013.
Besides being painless, the tests will be processed faster—the same day, instead of overnight. And the results will be based on quantitative information rather than the subjective reading of a pathologist using international guidelines.
Going forward, McManus has two goals in mind: first, “reduce the number of biopsies” that patients endure. And then, “to eliminate the biopsy” altogether.
By Alex Ballingall - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 11:20 AM - 0 Comments
Will a new technology extend the six-hour transportation time limit for heart transplants?
How long can a human heart sit in a cooler of ice—thirsty for vein-borne blood, detached from oxygen and lungs—before it becomes useless to the transplant patient who desperately needs it? Not much longer than six hours, and that’s already pushing it, says Dr. Thierry Mesana, chief of cardiac surgery at the Ottawa Heart Institute. “We don’t have so much trouble with anything under four hours,” says Mesana, who has been transplanting hearts for 25 years. “Beyond six hours is certainly too long.”
Those time restrictions lead to some unfortunate limitations for Canadian hospitals holding patients waiting for heart transplants (as of the end of last year, there were 135 of them in Canada). Even when a perfect match becomes available for transplant, it’s sometimes lost due to degradation over time. Mesana says it’s rare to be able to bring hearts to Ottawa from Vancouver, for example, even when a match—by blood type, age, weight—arises. “We basically can’t do it, most of the time,” he explains. If a match doesn’t turn up within a six-hour radius, the heart is lost.
But the makers of a new technology currently undergoing clinical trial in the United States and Europe say the traditional means of transporting hearts could soon be history. In place of the ice-filled cooler, they promise something seemingly out of science fiction: a box-like machine that carries a beating human heart.
By Alex Shimo - Thursday, October 30, 2008 at 12:00 AM - 2 Comments
Over 90 per cent of China’s organ transplants come from prisoners
When a patient has an organ transplant in China, chances are it was harvested from an executed prisoner. In a recent article in the British medical journal The Lancet, China’s vice-minister of health, Huang Jiefu, writes that more than 90 per cent of transplanted organs in his home country are from prisoners.
The government has strongly defended this practice, but Huang says more regulation is needed to protect prisoners’ rights. In particular, he’s lobbying for hospitals to adopt “centralized standards” and a “transparent system” that properly documents donors and where the body parts have come from, as well as a system for equitably allocating those organs. A “legal framework is urgently needed,” he writes.
Until recently, Chinese transplant centres were openly advertising their services to Westerners in English on their websites, where they even listed the prices for various organs. A liver or a heart cost about $120,000, for example, while a kidney cost between $60,000 and $90,000.
But bowing to international pressure, in June 2007 the Chinese government introduced new legislation giving priority for transplants to its own citizens, followed by the citizens of Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau. The new law effectively cut off Western access to the organs.
However, some medical professionals say there are still problems. They allege that the speed with which donors and patients are matched seems to indicate that prisoners are being selected before they are killed. There are also accusations from the group Falun Gong that its members are killed or their executions accelerated for their organs. The Chinese government denies this practice, but it agrees that more reform is needed.