From election results to Chewbacca mom, Facebook Live has become a popular way to broadcast breaking events as they unfold.
On Wednesday, an Ontario hospital offered a live-streamed look inside an operating room as doctors transplanted a kidney from a wife to her ailing husband.
St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton broadcast the surgery live on Facebook and its website and live-tweeted the event. Viewers were encouraged to ask questions about the procedure as it happened and were answered in real-time by doctors.
The event was intended to be a teachable moment on the science of organ transplants and the importance of kidneys. Local high school students watched in auditoriums, and several thousand Facebook viewers tuned in live.
And there was little left to the imagination. The camera offered an up-close view of the surgery, including the moment the successfully transplanted kidney swelled to a healthy pink and began producing urine.
“It’s peeing! Excellent,” said Dr. Anil Kapoor as he prodded a tube-shaped organ during the livestream.
The kidney recipient was 45-year-old Bhargav Turaga from Hamilton, Ont. His kidney function suddenly deteriorated two years ago, and he required a transplant soon or else face daily dialysis.
His wife, Nagamani Turaga, 44, volunteered her healthy kidney for the procedure.
The event was filled with fascinating factual tidbits. The average adult kidney is about the size of a fist. Doctors have a narrow window – about three minutes – to perfuse or clean the kidney once it’s removed, which preserves it. The kidney sits in a cooler filled with slushy ice while it waits to be transplanted to the recipient.
After all was said and done, Kapoor deemed the surgery a success.
“It was a 10 out of 10, there were no hiccups or complications,” he told the Facebook audience. “The kidney looked beautiful.”
Donor Nagamani will now rest for about four weeks as she recovers from the surgery. A healthy kidney can last about 15 to 20 years, and so it’s likely that Bhargav will require another surgery in the future, according to Dr. Darin Treleaven, medical director of the transplant program at St. Joe’s.
Kapoor said he enjoyed the experience and didn’t feel any extra pressure, despite the online audience.
“We teach residents and medical students and fellows all day long, so we always have an audience in the OR … so it’s really no stretch to do what we did today.”