Kansas City,
10:52 AM

Children's Mercy celebrates 300 kidney transplants

In circumstances almost as unusual as lightning striking twice in the same place, the Children’s Mercy kidney transplant team reached the milestone of 300 kidney transplants on May 20 as two transplants were performed just one month after the hospital conducted its first simultaneous kidney transplants.

Back on April 20, for the first time in the hospital’s 30-year history of transplanting kidneys, two kidneys from a single donor that matched two patients on the Children’s Mercy transplant list became available, and surgeons completed the procedures simultaneously. Barely one month later, another single donor’s kidneys became available and were offered to two teenagers on the Children's Mercy transplant list.

This time, instead of simultaneous procedures by separate surgical teams, Richard Hendrickson, MD, FAAP, FACS, and Paul Bowlin, MD, Pediatric Urologist, together performed the 299th and 300th CM kidney transplants back-to-back in a marathon, 13-hour Operating Room session that began at about noon on May19 and ended around 1 a.m. on May 20.

Robert “Bobby” Kocurek, 18, of Blue Springs, Missouri was transplant patient 299; Matthew Lee, 17, of Savannah, Missouri, was number 300.

“I want to thank everyone again for the magnificent job of performing two kidney transplants, AGAIN,” said Dr. Hendrickson. “These kidney transplant patients are cared for by an enormous number of Children's Mercy employees, and each one is important, from the time of diagnosis requiring dialysis to the time of discharge after the transplant. The Sterile Processing Team deserves special kudos; they had to work really hard to make sure that our OR equipment was cleaned after the first transplant and ready for the second.”


Both Matthew and Robert are doing well; Matthew was discharged on May 26; Robert on May 27.

“Both of these patients have very rare kidney disorders and were complex patients from the time they initiated dialysis,” said Judith VanSickle, MD, who is the nephrologist for both teenagers. “Their lives are going to be much better now that they have been transplanted and will no longer have to receive dialysis at Children's Mercy for four hours every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Matthew is looking forward to going to high school like everyone else, and Robert will be going to college to become an auto mechanic.”

Matthew, who will be a senior at Savannah High School this fall, confirmed that “Going to school every day,” will be the biggest change in his life. “I haven’t gone to school normally for four years,” he said, adding that he also plans to resume his swim team activities and enjoy a diet without restrictions.

“My friend wants to take me to Buffalo Wild Wings,” Matthew said with a smile. His experience at Children’s Mercy has inspired him to consider becoming a dialysis nurse.

“He would be a good dialysis nurse, because he would understand what the kids are going through,” said his mother, Molly Lee. She added that their family’s experience at Children's Mercy has been totally positive.

“We’ve had a good four years here,” said Molly. “People have asked me, ‘Why don’t you go closer to home for Matthew’s care?’ But I say, ‘No! When you need to trust somebody with your kids, it should be here.’”

Robert, who graduated this spring from Blue Springs South High School, said he will attend Metropolitan Community College in Longview to prepare for his career in auto mechanics, a prospect that will be much easier with a functioning kidney instead of undergoing dialysis three days a week.

Robert’s mother, Lisa, said, “He has a real brother named Matthew, and now he has a ‘kidney brother’ named Matthew!”

Reflections: 30 years of kidney transplantation

Bradley Warady, MD, Director-Division of Nephrology and Director, Kidney Transplant Program, established the dialysis and transplantation programs at Children's Mercy in 1984, and the first transplant was performed in 1986, so he has been here for all 300.

“There were no pediatric kidney transplants being performed anywhere in Kansas City until we did our first one in 1986,” Dr. Warady said. “Before that, most of our transplant recipients were referred to other large transplant centers, such as the University of Minnesota.”

When asked if he ever contemplated reaching the milestone of 300 transplants, Dr. Warady said improving the lives of patients like Matthew and Robert, not numbers, has always been top-of-mind.

“When you start programs like this, you take it one day at a time, aiming to improve what you do each and every day,” Dr. Warady said. “Our goal has always been to provide high quality care with the best possible outcomes for the kids, not necessarily the largest number of transplants. I’m most proud that we have enjoyed excellent results over the past three decades because of the terrific transplant team we have at CM and because of the dedicated families we have working with us. The kids do great, the families do great, and it just so happens that now we’ve been able to make 300 families very, very happy with a kidney transplant. It really is amazing when you stop and think about the kids and all of their family members whose lives we have had the privilege of changing in such a positive way.”

Surgery skill

George W. Holcomb III, MD, MBA, Surgeon-In-Chief, said, “Everybody involved deserves a lot of credit. I think the fact that we did two kidney transplants simultaneously, and then two consecutively, speaks volumes about our transplant program. It was really a total team effort. Even the biggest transplant centers in the world are not doing two simultaneous procedures very often.”

Dr. Holcomb said Children's Mercy is very fortunate to have Dr. Hendrickson and Dr. Walter Andrews, whom he described as, “Two very talented pediatric general surgeons who have been specially trained in kidney and liver transplantation,” as well as Dr. Bowlin. “Dr. Bowlin is one of our new urologists who has experience in kidney transplantation as well, so it’s nice to have his expertise in terms of the urological aspects of kidney transplantation.”

Gratitude to the donor

Amid the celebration surrounding the observance of 300 kidney transplants, Dr. Hendrickson emphasized that it is important to remember the real hero of this story: the donor who made it all possible.

“A tragedy on one side was a gift of life for these two teenagers,” he said.

Learn more about the Division of Pediatric Nephrology at Children's Mercy