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Above: Johanna Rempel, left, and Lana Blatz with organ transplant pioneer Joseph Murray, MD. Right: Johanna Rempel underwent a kidney transplant at BWH in 1960.
When Johanna Rempel walked into the Peter Bent Brigham building five decades after receiving a kidney transplant from her twin sister, she had a déjà vu moment.
“I thought, ‘oh no, not here again,’ but then I realized that it’s because of that transplant in 1960 I’m here today,” she said.
Rempel and her twin sister, Lana Blatz, visited BWH in May for the first time since undergoing the procedure, which was performed by Joseph Murray, MD, and a team of surgeons on Dec. 28, 1960.
At the time of the surgery, the twins, who were referred to by their maiden name, Nightingale, were 12 years old. Rempel suffered from a childhood illness, and her doctors told her that a kidney transplant was the only medical procedure that could save her life.
But still the decision for transplantation was not an easy one, Blatz said. As she and her sister were minors, she and her parents had to testify before the Massachusetts Superior court to get approval before the surgery.
“I remember the judge asking my parents and me if we understood the risks. All I wanted was to help my sister,” said Blatz.
During their visit to BWH, the twins had the opportunity to tour the hospital and meet with Murray, whom they stayed in close contact with after the transplant.
“It was great to come back and see all the doctors, especially Dr. Murray. Without him, I wouldn’t be here today,” said Rempel.
Rempel and Blatz also met with BWH Transplant Surgery Division staff, who are currently connecting with early kidney transplant recipients as part of a study that assesses transplant recipients’ and donors’ longevity.
“Johanna and Lana’s visit is a wonderful testament to the impact organ transplantation makes on a person’s life,” said Chief of Transplant Surgery Stefan G. Tullius, MD. “We should all be extremely proud that more than 50 years later, we continue to carry on the tradition that Dr. Murray pioneered in 1954.”
Johanna Rempel, left, and Lana Blatz visit BWH 50 years after Rempel’s transplant.
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