UCSD surgeons use one liver to save two lives

City News Service

One donated liver saved the lives of two men in a first-of-its-kind surgical procedure performed in June at UCSD Medical Center, hospital officials announced Wednesday.

According to UCSD Health Sciences, the donated liver was given on June 27 to Rafael Bolanos, a San Diego man suffering from a rare genetic disorder — methylmalonic acidemia — that causes a toxic buildup of amino acids in his body. The 28-year-old faced going into a coma and suffering brain damage without the operation, doctors said.

Bolanos’ original liver was given that same day to 62-year-old Ramona real estate developer James O’Gara, who had primary sclerosing cholangitis, a chronic liver disease caused by scarring of the bile ducts.

The body of O’Gara is capable of disposing of the amino acids, so the genetic disorder that plagued Bolanos won’t affect him, according to doctors.

“Liver transplantation was the only solution for both patients,” said Dr. Robert Gish, the UCSD chief of hepatology. “The challenge is that donated livers are in short supply, even for patients who desperately need transplantation.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 16,170 patients await a liver transplant each year in the United States.

About 15 percent of patients on the transplant list will die while waiting for an organ to become available.

“I have had great results — I feel good and my spirits are high,” O’Gara said. “They saved my life and I am deeply grateful.”

The so-called “domino” procedure is difficult but allows doctors to expand the number of patients who can be saved, said Dr. Alan Hemming, who performed the surgeries.

Bolanos was released from the hospital on Tuesday.

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Posted by Staff on Sep 21, 2011. Filed under La Jolla, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

1 Comment for “UCSD surgeons use one liver to save two lives”


    Rafael Bolanos & James O’Gara were very lucky to get Liver transplants. There is another good way to put a big dent in the organ shortage – if you don’t agree to donate your organs when you die, then you go to the back of the waiting list if you ever need an organ to live.

    Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. About 50% of the organs transplanted in the United States go to people who haven’t agreed to donate their own organs when they die.

    Anyone who wants to donate their organs to others who have agreed to donate theirs can join LifeSharers. LifeSharers is a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at <a href="http://www.lifesharers.org” target=”_blank”>www.lifesharers.org or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition. LifeSharers has over 14,700 members, including 1765 members in California.

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