St. Paul's Hospital reaches 2,000 transplant milestone

St. Paul's Hospital celebrates a major milestone – 2,000 kidney transplants.

Thursday, August 1, 2013, Vancouver, BC – St. Paul’s Hospital (SPH) is celebrating a major milestone – 2,000 kidney transplants.  Nelda Gill, a resident of Williams Lake who waited two years on kidney dialysis before participating in a living donor paired exchange, was the 2,000th recipient.

“Reaching this milestone is an incredible achievement,” said Vancouver-False Creek MLA Sam Sullivan on behalf of Health Minister Terry Lake. “St. Paul’s Hospital is a prime example of the amazing work being done in the field of transplants in British Columbia.”

The first kidney transplant at SPH was performed on April 20, 1986 by Dr. Andrew Moore (retired), and 27 years later, the 2,000th was performed by Dr. Michael Eng.  The hospital is one of three transplant centres in BC (along with Vancouver General and BC Children’s hospitals). The St. Paul's Kidney Transplant Program offers pre-transplant referral and assessment services, transplant surgery, post-transplant care as well as a variety of living donor programs.

“I didn’t think I was going to be emotional, but I was,” said Dr. David Landsberg head of the division of nephrology at SPH, and head of BC Transplant’s provincial renal program.  “I was very young when this program began and St. Paul’s entrusted me with this and all the patients trusted me.  We did really well in the beginning and I thought when we hit a thousand I’ll be ready for retirement.  It’s 2,000 and I’m still feeling pretty good.”

Gill participated in a living donor paired exchange thanks to her husband Glenn Gill.  A paired exchange allows patients with potential donors who are not a match to register in a national database with other incompatible donor/recipient pairs to create an opportunity for recipients to receive kidneys from other paired donors.  Gill was intimately aware of the importance of the transplant program at SPH long before she became ill.  Her mother was one of the hospital’s first transplant patients.

“My mother had her first transplant in 1986, and then a year later in ’87 she had another transplant that’s still going now.  It’s just improved so much over the years, seeing the different generations,” said Gill.  “And now it’s been so much easier with the paired exchange for me.  The social worker said that for somebody with my blood type, and the type of antibodies I have, most people wait seven years and I waited two.”

Amazingly, Dr. William Gourlay, Surgical Director of the Renal Program at SPH, personally performed more than half of the transplants over the last 27 years. 

“Our waiting list for transplant organs keeps growing and patients have to struggle longer and longer before they get transplanted.  I’m both humbled and inspired by the people who have donated, in particular the living kidney donors who display such personal strength and courage,” said Dr. Gourlay.  “You can’t do a transplant, let alone 2,000, without a lot of people all working towards the same goal and our program is very fortunate to have such a dedicated team of nurses, physicians, social workers and many other health care staff.”

Patients who are potential kidney transplant candidates are referred to the transplant centre by their kidney specialist for assessment and information about transplantation.  Potential benefits of transplantation include freedom from dialysis, better overall health, improved energy, freedom to travel and added survival years. Transplantation requires a life-long commitment to taking anti-rejection medication and follow-up, and there are potential risks from anti-rejection medication side effects.

“Renal care is one of our populations of emphasis at St. Paul’s Hospital.  We have long held a commitment, not only to excellent care, but cutting edge procedures and research,” said Dianne Doyle, President and CEO of Providence Health Care.  “This achievement is shared by all of the staff involved in the care of renal patients at St. Paul’s.  They have all played a part in helping these 2,000 patients and counting.”

“St Paul’s Hospital has long embraced the life saving principles of organ donation, and we congratulate them on this important milestone,” said Dr. Greg Grant, Provincial Executive Director, BC Transplant. “The majority of people on the transplant waitlist in BC are waiting for a kidney, and while organ donation rates have recently increased, we urge all BC residents to register their decision on organ donation, and if they know someone in need, to consider stepping forward to become a living kidney donor.”

Register online to be an organ donor at transplant.bc.ca.

Providence Health Care (PHC) is one of Canada's largest faith-based health care organizations, operating 16 health care facilities in Greater Vancouver. PHC operates one of two adult academic health science centres in the province, performs cutting-edge research in more than 30 clinical specialties, and focuses its services on six “populations of emphasis”: cardio-pulmonary risks and illnesses, HIV/AIDS, mental health, renal risks and illness, specialized needs in aging and urban health and is home to the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

BC Transplant provides provincial oversight for all aspects or organ donation and transplantation in BC, and is an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority. BC’s three transplant centres are BC Children’s Hospital (pediatric kidney and liver), St Paul’s (heart and kidney) and Vancouver General Hospital (kidney,liver, lungs, pancreas/islet). Transplant patients receive follow up care at the transplant centres or at one of seven regional clinics close to their home community.

For more information please contact:
Dave Lefebvre
Senior Communications Specialist – Media Relations
Providence Health Care
dlefebvre@providencehealth.bc.ca
604-682-2344 xt.66987
604-837-6003 (c)

Peggy John
Manager, Communications
BC Transplant
Peggy.john@bcts.hnet.bc.ca
604 877 2184
604 789 0446 (c)