Finding a living kidney donor is a godsend for patients on dialysis. A donor who’s a match (in blood type) is even more precious. Berch Harris was fortunate enough to find both—in his wife, Vallerie Armstrong, whom he’d met at a hemodialysis center. I write about their courtship, marriage, and putting to the test the vows “in sickness and in health” in a recent issue of Surgical Solutions for the Department of Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University.
I was also intrigued by what transplant surgeon Dr. Ramirez explained as the intricate logistics involved in matching donors with recipients, especially if a patient’s loved one is willing to donate, but is not a match; it turns out that, since he/she could be a match for someone else, this could guarantee a kidney that is a match, and circumvent what could be a long wait on the transplant list. Jefferson is now part of an elaborate national network that orchestrates “paired kidney donation.” This can involved multiple pairs, and requires many operating rooms and organs transported—all of which needs to happen within a matter of hours.
At a time when it seems we’re scrambling to repair and protect ourselves from human error on all fronts, it’s heartening to read about medicine getting it right and making all the difference in people’s lives.
This summer I had the pleasure of interviewing a world-renowned classical composer who is working on a way to kill cancer cells using sound waves. (Think opera singer who can shatter glass with her voice.) He did a mini-sabbatical at Jefferson’s Department of Surgery in July, and got some promising results. Imagine a side-effect-free treatment that can be dispensed to a room full of patients for just a few pennies’ worth of electricity.
A documentarian has been following Dr. Holland for months, and collecting video diary entries, in the hopes that this research will cross over from promising into ground-breaking. (My sources tell me that he’s also pitching the story to This American Life.) Be one of the first to read about this true Renaissance man. Read the full article here or the PDF version here.
A little backstory: Dr. Holland came to Jefferson because of happenstance. Dr. Jonathan Brody, of Jefferson’s Division of Surgical Research, gave a talk last year at Skidmore, his alma mater, where Dr. Holland has taught for 27 years. (Turns out Dr. Brody is quite the Renaissance man himself, and a classically trained percussionist.) Dr. Holland attended Dr. Brody’s talk, and approached his former student about what he’d been “playing around with” in the biology labs. And a research partnership was born. Stories of how great partnerships come about have always intrigued me, and I love the role of classical music in this one.