Rob Nutter (centre) during August 29 newscast. To his right is Dr. Jamil Bashir and to his left is Dr. Michael Eng.

Castlegar man involved in rare medical procedure

Successful double transplant and encouraging recovery underway

Rob Nutter, a 55 year-old millwright, is the beneficiary of a rare double transplant performed earlier this month at St. Pauls’ Hospital in Vancouver.

Equipped with new heart and kidney, Nutter’s recovery is well underway.

Double transplants are not at all commonplace, especially when both organs come from the same donor, as they did in this case.

“This is truly a team effort,” Dr. Jamil Bashir, cardiac transplant surgeon at SPH is quoted in an Aug. 29 press release from Providence Health Care / BC Transplant.

“The procedures involve a lot of decision making and a massive team of people working together to ensure that it will be successful.”

Spanning 14 hours and involving two surgeon specialists and a team of professionals, this was only the fifth time this type of double transplant has taken place in British Columbia.

Mr. Nutter had been diagnosed in 1998 with a condition called ‘presumed post-viral dilated cardiomyopathy.’ The wheels were set in motion for a transplant in 2006, but his condition was not deemed crucial enough for the major operation. In January 2011, Nutter’s condition took a turn for the worse and he was re-assessed for transplant.

Heart and kidney transplants, done individually, are very complicated and the challenges obviously grow when they’re done in tandem as they were with Mr. Nutter.

“Doctors considered performing the surgeries separately,” the Ug. 28 press release indicates, “but worldwide statistics show improved outcomes if the patient receives both organs from the same donor. The stability of the patient is also a key concern. Cardiac experts together with the renal transplant team determine whether to wait for one donor for both organs.”

In due course conditions were right for the green light to be given to the double transplant and the patient’s recovery has been dramatic and inspirational.

“Totally surprised,” is how Mr. Nutter puts it. “I did not expect this. I never thought I could be this good this soon.”

True enough, Nutter’s outlook on life has improved in direct correlation to his physical revitalization.

“I think not only does it give myself a lot of hope, it gives other people a lot of hope,” he suggests. “Look at this guy, ten days later what he’s been through… bum heart and bum kidneys and he’s like a teenager.”

A new lease on life would be an understatement.

“I was up and walking within two days,” enthused Nutter, “walking quite well and feeling fine… just feeling unbelievable.  And my family was telling me you’ve never looked this good, you’ve never sounded this good.  I talked to someone on the phone yesterday from back home and they said you’ve never sounded this good in years.”

“This incredible story is possible because one family, during a time of unimaginable tragedy, made the decision for their loved one to be an organ donor. I’m certain the family would take comfort in seeing that their gift of life has made such a remarkable difference,” said Dr. Greg Grant, Provincial Executive Director, BC Transplant.

The immediate path to recovery for Nutter involves constant assessment and analysis by clinic staff and doctors at SPH.  As part of his recovery, Nutter is taking three-hour walks along Vancouver’s seawall. He has not needed dialysis since the surgery.  He wants to share his story to inspire others who might be in similar situations and to raise awareness for organ donation.

 

Register online to be an organ donor at transplant.bc.ca.

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