It's a transplant surgeon's job to transplant or move organs from one human
being to another so the recipient can live a longer, healthier life. Without
vital organ transplants, patients can die -- even at young ages.
These surgeons first do a general surgical evaluation, where they review
previous operations and assess the risks and benefits of surgery. They consult
with other members of the transplant team, which may include other physicians,
nurses, social workers and other professionals.
The surgeon assesses the patient before the operation, performs the operation,
then checks on the patient after the transplant is completed and the patient
has been discharged.
There are nationwide campaigns to get more people to donate organs, but
there's still a long list of people waiting on transplant surgery lists because
there are no available or suitable donors.
One possible solution to the human organ shortage is to replace them with
organs from another species. This is known as xenografting or xenotransplantation.
For example, in October 1984, transplant surgeons at the Loma Linda University
Medical Center in California transplanted a heart from a seven-month-old baboon
into a newborn human. Baby Fae lived for 20 days and eventually died from
One problem with animal-to-human transplantation is rejection of the organ
by humans. But research continues to try to solve this problem.
The process of transplant surgery is not physically involving and involves
knowledge and precision rather than strength. You can't do this job if you
have problems with vision that cannot be corrected by glasses, or if you are
Transplant surgeons put in long days, with the average being 10 to 12 hours.
"I work usually 12 hours a day," says transplant surgeon Dr. Annie Fecteau.
"I'm on call one day in four for pediatric surgery, and one day out of two
for transplant surgery."
Dr. Robert Michler of the Ohio State University Medical Center says his
average workday begins at 6 a.m. and ends between 9 and 10 p.m. "If I'm in
town, I'm available," he says. "I see patients on Saturday and try to take
Sundays off. It's 24 hours a day, seven days a week that you must be available
for the patients and families."