A group of Edmonton surgeons have broken the province’s record for organ transplants.

The transplant services team at the University of Alberta Hospital successfully completed 32 transplants in 10 days at the end of July more than they would normally do in a month.

Breakdown of transplants completed:

  • 3 lung transplants
  • 4 heart transplants
  • 8 liver transplants
  • 5 islet transplants
  • 1 pancreas transplant
  • 10 kidney transplants

A team of six surgeons completed all 32 procedures. 

“This is truly a remarkable record and achievement,” said Dr. Jim Kutsogiannis, the Medical Director of the Human Organ Procurement Exchange (HOPE) Program, in a statement Monday.

“These transplants were made possible through the collaborative efforts of our regional ICU staff, HOPE and Comprehensive Tissue Center (CTC) coordinators, operating room staff, and transplant surgeons.”

The 32 organs came from 11 deceased donors, eight of whom were from Alberta.

“Without the generosity of spirit and empathy of our many Alberta donors and their families, we could not have offered our recipients the opportunity for ongoing quality of life,” said Kutsogiannis.

Life-saving changes

Kutsogiannis said staff, physicians and surgeons had to work quickly to match organs to recipients, schedule operating rooms and find specialized post-operative beds.

Rick Galloway, 54, was one of the patients who received a transplant during the record 10-day period.

Diagnosed with pulmonary veno-occlusive disease, Galloway had spent more than 50 days in the cardiovascular intensive care unit at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute waiting for a suitable donor.

“I collapsed in May and the doctors told me I wouldn’t survive the week on my own, so they surgically implanted a device to help ventilate my lungs,” Galloway said. “My care team kept me alive until an organ became available.

“I am forever grateful to my donor and their family.”

Now, Dr. Kutsogiannis is reminding Albertans about the importance of planning ahead.

“Having directions about what a loved one would like to see done in the event of their death can help with their grieving process,” he said. “I would encourage all Albertans and their families to discuss the gift of organ and tissue donation and to register their wishes to donate organs and tissues online or in person at Alberta registry agents.”

Alberta currently has one of the lowest organ and tissue donor rates in the country. More than 200 Albertans in the Edmonton area have died in the past five years while waiting for an organ transplant.

In April, the Alberta government launched an online organ and tissue donation registry, allowing Albertans to sign up online or at a registry office when renewing their driver's license.

Since then, more than 23,000 Albertans have registered to donate their organs and/or tissues.