When Yolanda Medina, a Bronx mother of three children, bled to death on May 23rd at Montefiore Medical Center—because her aorta was cut during organ donation surgery—her passing left her brother, a kidney patient, bereft. “I am drained, emotionally and physically,” Roberto Medina told PIX 11’s Ellyn Marks.
Roberto Medina is still waiting for a kidney, and organ donation networks are wondering what impact, if any, Yolanda Medina’s death will have on donors in the future.
Montefiore had a forty-year plus success record with transplant surgery, noted Mark Bodner, a medical malpractice lawyer who used to represent hospital interests in the 1980’s, including those of Montefiore. “35,000 transplants. 1,000 living donor surgeries. And this is the first time this occurred,” Bodner told PIX 11. “That’s notable.”
Montefiore has suspended its “live” donor program, since the 41 year old woman’s death.
A recent study in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, found there were an average of 3.1 surgical deaths for every 10,000 donors. More than six thousand healthy individuals undergo nephrectomy every year in the United States, for the purposes of “live” donation.
PIX 11 met up with Jerry Trueba, a kidney patient, as he left an Upper East Side dialysis center on Monday. Trueba has been getting his blood purified through dialysis, three times a week, for the last fifteen years. “You don’t live a normal life like you want to,” Trueba told PIX, “because this takes a long time.” Treatment generally lasts three and a half hours every, single visit. Trueba said his kidney trouble led him to lose his job as a parking lot attendant. The rigors of dialysis are the number one reason most kidney patients seek a transplant.
Trueba did get a transplant in 2007; the donor was a 15 year old Long Island boy who died suddenly. When an autopsy showed Alex Cana had died from a rare form of lymphoma, the organs his family had donated had to be removed from the recipients. Trueba had a cancerous kidney removed and was forced to undergo chemotherapy. The patients who received Cana’s liver and pancreas ultimately died.
The attorney, Mark Bodner, was concerned the recent Bronx case would make people shy away from “living” organ donation. He pointed out that it’s more rare to die from donating an organ than it is to die in a plane crash.
Jerry Trueba would like another kidney someday, but he’s still a bit apprehensive. “I’m not in such a hurry, because of the experience I had before,” Trueba said.