In a surgical marathon in early March, doctors at Intermountain Medical Center transplanted seven organs five kidneys and two livers into seven patients over five days.
The organs came from three donors who had died. Some of those donors' other organs went to patients in other hospitals.
"Really crazy" is how one of the transplant coordinators, registered nurse Beth Wier, described her 13 hours of coordinating four kidney transplants between March 2 and March 6.
Kristie Baker, another coordinator, estimates she spent 28 hours straight arranging the liver transplant and two other kidney transplantations. The job involves notifying surgeons, patients and backups, and arranging operating rooms and support staff.
The five kidney transplants were the equivalent of 11 percent of the 45 kidney transplants performed in 2010. Intermountain performed a total of 141 transplant surgeries last year.
All of the patients from the early March surgeries are doing well, according to Intermountain. Two patients, the coordinators and a transplant surgeon gathered Wednesday at the Murray hospital to celebrate and raise awareness about the importance of organ donation.
Baker's late-night phone call to Valeri Wright ended the Las Vegas woman's 20-year tether to a dialysis machine. She has a disease that started scarring her kidneys when she was pregnant, leading to kidney failure. She had a transplant years ago, but her body rejected it after 12 hours.
Wright, 40, is two weeks out from her transplant and said she feels great. When asked what she plans to do, she said, "live."
"I'd say thank you [to the donor] but that's not enough," she said, adding that she hopes the donor families feel some comfort from their gift. "They have lost so much but given so much."
Wright said some of the patients who received transplants in early March have bonded. She considers the woman who received her donor's other kidney to be her "sister kidney." She added: "You have a bond that you will never stop having."
Patient Juan Salazar, 69, said he needed a transplant because his kidney was damaged by high blood pressure. The Salt Lake City man seemed to choke up when he spoke of the donors: "It's a great sacrifice and God bless them."
Liver transplant surgeon Willem Van der Werf, Intermountain's chief of the division of transplant surgery, said the flurry of activity was due to coincidence. The hospital officials couldn't reveal the cause of the donors' deaths but said they weren't connected.
Across the country, 110,521 Americans are on the waiting list for an organ, according to the national organ transplantation network. Intermountain says the median wait time for a kidney transplant is two years.
O To learn more or to register to become a donor, visit idslife.org