A Saskatchewan doctor was part of a medical breakthrough in Houston.
Dr. Michael Klebuc, a plastic surgeon from Regina and graduate of the University of Saskatchewan's College of Medicine, was one of the team leaders in an operation that saw a patient receive a skull and scalp transplant along with a new kidney and pancreas.
The operation represents the first time this kind of multi-organ transplant has taken place.
"The logistics of doing something like this are really quite incredible," Klebuc told host Garth Materie on CBC Radio's The Afternoon Edition. "It takes deep commitment from a very large number of physicians, nurses and other allied health care professionals."
Klebuc said that all of the organs and tissues had to come from a single donor and there is a finite amount of time the body parts can exist without circulation.
'We use tiny instruments to do it, much like a watch maker would use to make a really fine Swiss watch' - Dr. Michael Klebuc
"We had a group of people who were available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for over one year while we were waiting for the appropriate donor to come in," Klebuc said.
He explained that the patient, 55-year-old James Boysen, first received kidney and pancreas transplants 14 years ago due to kidney failure resulting from childhood diabetes.
However, Klebuc said those transplants started to fail, as most transplants tend to over time.
In addition, Klebuc said the immune suppressive medication Boysen was taking as a result of the transplants caused him to grow a tumour on the soft tissue of the scalp.
"The radiation therapy is a double-edged sword, it helps kill tumours but at the same time damages native healthy tissue," Klebuc said.
The radiation caused a wound on Boysen's head that refused to heal, which is why he also needed the skull and scalp procedure.
"He was caught in the middle and the answer was to do all three at the same time," Klebuc said.
He added that the operation took a total 15 hours and a great deal of precision to connect small blood vessels under a microscope.
"We use tiny instruments to do it, much like a watch maker would use to make a really fine Swiss watch," he said.
Moving forward, Klebuc said it is encouraging to have the team and infrastructure in place at the Houston Methodist Hospital that is able to conduct these types of complex transplants.
A news release from the hospital said that Boysen was set to be discharged on Friday.
"I'm amazed at how great I feel and am forever grateful that I have another chance to get back to doing the things I love and be with the people I love," Boysen states in the release.