Today is a very special day to commemorate. Forty years ago, on the 17th December, the first kidney transplant was performed in Mauritius.
There are many remarkable aspects to this story. The surgery was performed in the Clinique Mauricienne by Dr Mahen Modun, urologist and Dr Marcello Li Sung Sang, nephrologist, both recently back from training at Dublin’s National Renal Unit. Helped by the paramedical staff, the sequential donor nephrectomy and transplantation took 4 hours.
What a daring feat! Such procedures are usually done by two different surgical teams in hospital settings with full diagnostic and therapeutic backup. The blood samples for cross match had to be sent to South Africa and the immunosuppressive drugs brought from Ireland. Try to imagine the medical scene in Mauritius 40 years ago.
In 1980, advanced renal failure was a death sentence. Dialysis had not started in Mauritius then. What was the chain of events that allowed the desperate 20 year old man suffering from oedema, breathlessness and high urea to find these two doctors? What led to the patient, the donor (his 18 year old sister) and their family to believe in the surgical intervention?
Since 1992, some 350 transplants have been performed in Mauritian public hospitals. Foreign teams started the transplantation programme and local surgeons took over. Unfortunately, the local transplant surgeons retired four years ago and patients have since been sent abroad for transplantation by the Ministry of Health and Wellness. Behind the scenes, there are serious efforts to restart local kidney transplantation with up to date standards and techniques in the near future.
One last detail about this great anniversary. The most amazing of all. Both the transplant recipient, now 60 years old, and the donor, 58 years old, are alive and well with the transplant kidney still working every minute…