Saturday, July 11, 2020

Two Lives Brought Together In A Rare And Historic Transplant

Two Lives Brought Together In A Rare And Historic Transplant

A medical marvel was done at the University of Chicago early this year. Daru Smith from Chicago and Sarah McPharlin from Detroit were the centre of attention with this one of a kind transplant operation. 

What made this transplant so unique and why are we talking about it? It was a rare triple-organ transplant!

Smith, a truck driver, suffered from an autoimmune disease leading to heart and liver failure. As if that is not enough, he had diabetes that led to kidney damage. 

On the other hand, Sarah suffered from a heart condition (virus infection), and at the tender age of 12 years, the doctors announced that only a transplant would save her life. However, her condition after the transplant went downhill later on. The transplant caused damage to her liver and kidneys.

It’s their health conditions that brought these people together as they were both on the list to receive heart-liver-kidney transplants.

The two lives from different backgrounds came together at physical therapy. From this 1st meeting, a friendship flourished as the two worked and supported each other and through the exercises (during therapy)- their bond grew. 


They were beneficiaries of a revised allocation policy for heart transplant patients. The new policy ranks patients in six categories, unlike the previous three categories.  The two were qualified due to their compromised blood circulation.

Their transplant was rare as, since 1989, there have been only 17 such cases in U.S history.

Daru Smith and Sarah had their operations done back to back between Dec 19 and Dec. 21. 

Daru went into surgery first (although he had hoped that her friend Sarah would go in first) The surgery took at least 17 hours. With Christmas being a few days away, he can only thank his stars for getting another chance to be with his 3-year old child.

During Smith’s surgery, his prayer seemed to be answered as news came that Sarah had also found a donor. With this new, history was made as the hospital scheduled for another similar surgery, the same day!

Smith broke the news to Sarah and her mother as the three had a chat later on. Smith was dumbfounded to discover that Sarah did not know yet that a donor had been found. For the first time in a very long time, the family had a reason to celebrate!

Sarah’s intensive surgery (that took 20 hours) commenced on 20 Dec until 21st Dec under Dr. Valluvan.

The two surgeries were successful, and the duo remains optimistic about their futures. Daru embarked on raising his child with prospects of becoming a motivational speaker. Sarah, on the other hand, intends to make the best out of her life- the only way to honour her donor.

Both patients remained in hospital after their operations. McPharlin was the first to be released with Smith having to wait for about a week for rehabilitation.

Their friendship did not end after the operation, however. The bond grew even to their families with the pair planning to have a joint family dinner soon.

Nelson O. Freytes
Nelson O. Freytes
Nelson received a liver transplant over 20 years ago due to fulminant liver failure, caused by thyroid medication. A few years after his transplant, Nelson set out to build a ‘next-level’ social network for the transplant community and started Transplant Cafe, and most recently Transplant News.

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