From the Greek meaning 'heavy with wine'
A blog devoted to science and reason
Written after a glass or two of Pinot Noir.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

My Great Nephew Jake

This is my niece Angie's little boy Jake with his dad Darin.  With the help of the physicians and surgeons at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, Darin saved his boy's life.  Jake was born with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD); that is, his kidneys have never worked.  On Thursday, June 7, doctors successfully transplanted one of Darin's kidneys into Jake.  I got the best news at 5:38 p.m. when Jake's Grandma, my sister Emily, sent me a text that read "kidney in and he peed!"

The cause of Jake's kidney problem is Eagle Barrett syndrome, also known as Prune Belly syndrome.  The abdominal muscles are often poorly developed, making the skin on the belly to wrinkle prune-like.  The cause of Eagle Barrett syndrome is unknown and effects boys mostly.

While I don't wish to understate the seriousness of the operation, kidney transplants have become almost routine.  More than 17,000 of them are performed every year - about 50 a day.  Sadly though, 87,000 people are waiting for a donor kidney.  Those people, like Jake before his operation, have to depend on dialysis.

Kidneys were once thought to be where your conscience and emotions existed.  Look up Psalms 7:9; "… for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins."  Then see Revelations 2:23; "… all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works."  [King James Version, Cambridge Edition]. The word reins refers to the kidneys; both rein and renal are derived from the Latin renes.  For more Biblical kidneys, see Psalms 16:7, Proverbs 23:16, Isaiah 11:5, and Job 16:13.  Note that in many translations, reins is replaced with mind.

However, the Bible is not a physiology text, and our knowledge of function has improved in two thousand years.  Your kidneys maintain pH and the balance of electrolytes (like sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium).  They ensure that bodily fluids stay at proper levels and thereby help regulate blood pressure.  From physics and chemistry perspective, they are simple organs.  They do their job by three basic processes: filtration, reabsorption, and secretion.

The Herrick brothers examine an early dialyzer.
CREDIT: Kennebeck Journal
With ESRD, those three functions of the kidney have to be replaced with an artificial kidney - the dialyzer.  Dr. Willem Kolff invented dialysis in 1943 in Nazi-occupied Netherlands "using sausage skins, orange juice cans, a washing machine and other common items to make a device that could clear the blood of toxins."  It wasn't until  1960 though that dialysis could be used for ESRD patients.  Dr. Belding Scribner devised the Scribner Shunt that allowed a plastic tubes to be inserted into a vein and an artery that are then connected to the dialyzer.  After treatment, the tubes are connected by a U-shaped tube that redirects the blood back into the body.

This shunt would not have been practical without the discovery of Teflon®.  Blood is good at clotting.  The Teflon prevents this from happening.  By the way, Roy Plunkett accidentally discovered Teflon® or polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) in 1938 while trying to find a new refrigerant.

One further note: Dialysis is expensive.  So expensive that the federal government pays 80% of the cost.  I'm not going to complain about my taxes for awhile.

Ruth Tucker received the first transplanted kidney in 1950.  This kidney came from a cadaver.  Since immunosuppresant drugs were not available then, she rejected the organ ten months later.  Fortunately, her one kidney recovered functionality in the meantime. In 1954, Richard Herrick in Boston participated in one of the first transplants from a live donor, his twin brother Ron.  Immunosuppression is not an issue for twins.  Joseph Murray won the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 1990 for performing the surgery.

So Jake is doing fine; Darin is still pretty sore.  Jake's fantastic big sisters, Grace and Sarah Jane are going home with their grandparents, my brother-in-law Mike and sister Emily.  Angie has the big job of taking care of the boys - a job she is eminently qualified for.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome update!! This is Andrea, Angie's childhood best friend and still today. Thankful this morning for God's work this morning with Jake and Darin and his grace!