Baltimore — It took 12 surgeons, six operating rooms and five donors to pull it off, but five desperate strangers simultaneously received new organs in what hospital officials Monday described as the first-ever quintuple kidney transplant.
All five recipients - three men and two women - were doing fine, as were the five organ donors, all women, said Eric Vohr, a spokesman at the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Transplant Center. The 10 participants came from Canada, Maine, Maryland, West Virginia, Florida and California.
Several triple transplants have been done at Johns Hopkins, but hospital officials said the five simultaneous transplants performed a week ago were a first.
Four of the sick patients had approached Johns Hopkins with a relative who was willing to donate a kidney but was an incompatible donor. The fifth patient had been on a waiting list for a kidney from a dead person.
Together, those nine people and an "altruistic donor" - someone willing to give a kidney to anyone who needed it - had enough matched kidneys among them to pull off a complex, five-way swap.
Once the swap was agreed to, the transplants were done all at the same time to prevent anyone from backing out later or in case someone fell ill.
Dr. Robert Montgomery, director of Hopkins' transplant center and head of the transplant team, pronounced the interlocking deal "a demonstration to the rest of the country that this is what's possible when people work together."
Sheila Thornton, 63, of Edgewood, said she felt "just joy, joy, it's almost inexplicable," after she learned she would receive a kidney from Sandra Loevner, 63, of Sarasota, Fla., whom she had never met.
"That really hit home," Thornton said of receiving a lifesaving gift from a stranger. "How do you thank somebody?"
The altruistic donor, Honore Rothstein of Martinsburg, W.Va., decided to donate a kidney after losing her husband to a brain hemorrhage and her daughter to an overdose. She did not know any of the donors or recipients.
"I'm thrilled I'm giving to somebody," Rothstein said, sitting next to Kristine Jantzi, 40, of Bangor, Maine, who received her kidney. "Her mom couldn't give to her, and I couldn't save my daughter."