Veteran’s life saved by U of U Health teams and historic triple-organ transplant

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – A rare surgical procedure so rare, the U of U hospital teamed with the VA hospital to pull it off. Triple-transplant surgery. A 58-year-old veteran, Keith Baker was the patient who went through the procedure.

The patient was suffering from heart failure, kidney failure, and liver failure, he was not considered a candidate for conventional transplant surgery.

The University of Utah was told of some of the issues surrounding the man’s case and was asked if they would consider a triple organ transplant.

A compatible donor was found for the the three organs.

The ability to do the surgery was a ten-year development for the University of Utah’s transplant program. The program had performed double-organ transplant surgery, and that is why they felt they could attempt three organs.

Donor Connect helped coordinate the surgery.

First they did the heart transplant, after the heart transplant the abdominal team came in and did the liver transplant. After the heart and liver they sent the patient back to ICU for an eight hour recovery period.

After that they performed the kidney transplant. A preservation device allows the kidneys to live longer outside the body than the other organs.

Doctors from the University of Utah pointed out that sometimes the recovery for one organ could cause problems with other organs, in this case, they were able to manage the process so the organs “woke up’ and started to work.

Dr. Craig Sellzman from University of Utah health said, “We didn’t really think he had a chance, but the guy has some level of resiliency. That maybe is his veteran roots, but he could not be denied and despite some of our initial pessimism, he proved us all wrong. He showed us a spirit of survival.”

Kieth Baker, the patient, said “I don’t believe any of this could have happened without the miracle I received from my God. He put the skill and talent into these wonderful doctors and nurses. I’ll even include the janitors cause everyone had a hand in what had happened.”

“I wasn’t going to give up, they were right about that,” Baker said.

Baker continued, “I wanted to get my message out, especially today on Veteran’s day for one to thank all the other veterans I served with and two if there’s any patients I can possibly help if you’ve reached out or hopefully get to see this, or might be stumbling with a few things.”

“Anything is possible, put your heart into it, don’t give up, go in with a good attitude, don’t’ worry about the small stuff, that’s what everybody else gets paid to do, just try and stay alive.”

Keith Baker is almost ready to get out the hospital. Doctor Sellzman explained he was so sick, and lying flat on his back for so many weeks, months even, that getting his physical stamina back up is important.

Mr. Baker will be staying in Salt Lake for a few more months before he returns home.

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