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Live on Twitter: Successful Transplant Surgery

Children’s Medical Center and UT Southwestern Medical Center, both in Dallas, collaborated to become the first hospitals to Twitter live during a pediatric kidney transplant Monday.

Chris Gilbreath, a firefighter in Sherman, Texas, donated his left kidney to his three-year-old son, John Gilbreath, who was living without kidneys. Thousands followed the eight-hour operations, both Chris’ nephrectomy and also John’s transplant, via Twitter at www.twitter.com/ChildrensTheOne.

Dr. Juan Arenas, the chief of surgical transplantation at UT Southwestern Medical Center, started the nephrectomy to remove Chris’ left kidney at 7 a.m. at UT Southwestern University Hospital. By 10:30, his kidney was transported to Children’s Medical Center where Dr. Dev Desai, the chief of pediatric transplantation at Children’s Medical Center, and three-year-old John were waiting for the organ.

Kidney transplant coordinators – nurses who were close to the Gilbreath’s case – translated the surgeon’s medical terms to layman’s terms for the Twitter feed.  In all, more than 160 “Tweets” or posts kept the Gilbreath family, their friends and a legion of Twitter followers updated on the details of the two operations.

Tweets included the scientific, such as “We can now see the renal vein, which supplies and drains the kidney” to the routine, “The radio is on in John’s OR, and the band Boston is playing.”  The final Tweet of the day summarized an exciting day in two operating rooms at two different hospitals: “A successful surgery wraps up at 2:30 p.m. CST. Thank you all for tuning in, John is on his way to being a healthy, happy 3 year old.”

The hospitals, both major transplant centers, aimed to educate the public and raise awareness for organ donation, especially for living donation.  Nearly 85,000 people are currently on the waiting list for a kidney in the U.S.

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