Surgeon: Officer’s actions were a cut above

By on January 25, 2017
Dr. Warren R. Maley. Photo Thomas Jefferson University Hospital

Editor’s note: The Review reached out to Dr. Warren R. Maley at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. He was the surgeon leading the organ transplant the morning of Jan. 7 and was in the transport vehicle at the time of the crash near the Denver Exchange of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

These are his thoughts and reflections on that day’s events:

In 2016 there were 27,628 deceased donor organs transplanted in the United States.

Almost all of these organs are recovered in the hospitals where the deceased donor is located and transported back to the transplant center where they will be transplanted.

Each organ tolerates being out of the body differently. The heart and lungs are the least tolerant of cold ischemia (the period of time in the cold preservative fluid), then the liver, and finally the kidneys. The heart and lungs need to be in their respective recipients and reperfused with the recipient’s blood by four hours after they came out of the donor.

These teams almost always travel by helicopter or plane. For the liver we shoot for about six to eight hours.

We generally travel by car, but if the distance is far such as Pittsburgh or West Virginia, then we will fly. The kidneys tolerate cold ischemia best and the recipients can be dialyzed post-op if the organ does not work immediately. The other organs must work immediately. The kidneys can tolerate up to 48 hours of cold ischemia, but we endeavor to keep it less than 24 hours or as short as possible.

In this case, the liver was reperfused within six and a half hours, thanks to Officer Keppley’s quick work.

Without his ride we likely would have waited another one to two hours for another car to arrive to transport us to Jefferson.

While this would not have been prohibitive, his willingness to go out of his way provided us an extra margin of safety.

Also our team at Jefferson had already started their procedure. Rarely, they can get to a situation where they need to take the old liver out quickly and put the new one in place because of bleeding. So we prefer to arrive back as quickly as possible to minimize risk that they need the organ and we’re not back yet.

When I realized that our SUV was no longer roadworthy, I became concerned. It’s my responsibility to be sure that the liver is recovered well and transported to Jefferson in a timely fashion.

This is the first time that I’ve had our transportation breakdown in transit. When we fly to different cities we are frequently transported to and from the airport by ambulances. This is the first time that a police officer has had to fill that role. I have asked the police to transport recipients to the hospital for their transplants before.

Officer Keppley’s immediate willingness to go two hours out of his way in the snow is the kind of responsiveness and responsibility that the citizens of his community want in those individuals protecting their safety.

In this situation he extrapolated that sense of responsibility to an individual who was not within his jurisdiction, but to whom he could provide urgent service.

These are the kind of people we all want working on our local police forces. People with a sense of community and dedication.

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