Fifty years ago, 6-year-old Tommy Hoag underwent a kidney transplant. It was February 1967 and pediatric nephrologist Richard Fine, MD at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) thought a kidney transplant was the only option for Tommy who had developed glomerulonephritis following a bout with Scarlet fever.
At that time, kidney transplants had only been performed a few times in children and mostly in twins. The doctors were cautiously optimistic that the transplant would succeed and give Tommy a few more years of life.
This week, Tommy and Dr Fine reunited for a special celebration at CHLA to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the transplant.
Tommy is 56 years old and still has that original transplanted kidney. Dr Fine is professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
In the audience for the celebration was 14-year-old Gemma Lafontant, CHLA’s most recent kidney transplant patient. Gemma has chronic kidney disease and received a pre-emptive donor kidney 3 weeks ago.
Let’s Get This Done
Tommy’s donor was his father. In recalling the 1967 operation, Tommy said “I remember being wheeled into the operating room and [my father] was already there and he was happy to see me.”
Tommy added, “My dad was a baseball fan, a die-hard Dodgers fan, and also a Babe Ruth fan. When he saw me, he said, ‘Come on in, Bambino! Let’s get this done!'”
Tommy’s transplanted kidney is, if not the longest, one of the longest functioning live donor kidneys in U.S. history.
Dr Fine commented, “Seeing Tommy here today, seeing how well he’s done for such a long period of time, I think, is one of the highlights of my career. We had no idea 50 years ago that we could accomplish having someone survive with one kidney for 50 years.”
During a press conference, Tommy was asked what the transplant meant to him and he responded, “I’ve lived my life. I’ve played baseball and golfed and went on vacations. Fifty years – there is a lot of stuff to do.”
Glomerulonephritis is a type of kidney disease in which the part of the kidneys that filter waste and fluids from the blood is damaged. It may be acute or chronic (coming on gradually), and may occur on its own (primary) or be caused by another condition (secondary).
General symptoms include Blood in the urine (dark, rust-colored, or brown urine), foamy urine (due to excess protein in the urine) and swelling of the face, eyes, ankles, feet, legs, or abdomen. Abdominal pain, blood in the vomit or stools, cough and shortness of breath, diarrhea, fever and nosebleeds may occur.
Treatment depends on the cause of the disorder, and the type and severity of symptoms. Controlling high blood pressure is usually the most important part of treatment. A procedure called plasmapheresis may sometimes be used for glomerulonephritis caused by immune problems. The fluid part of the blood that contains antibodies is removed and replaced with intravenous fluids or donated plasma (that does not contain antibodies). Removing antibodies may reduce inflammation in the kidney tissues. Patients with this condition should be closely watched for signs of kidney failure. Dialysis or a kidney transplant may eventually be needed.