Father of Modern Transplantation
Thomas Starzl: I was always worried. Of course there were textbooks describing operations. Even if I had done an operation 100 times, if I had an operation that I had done two days before, I'd go back and read the book and refresh books, which quickly became tattered and exhausted by constant use. But I think the great worries that tended to accumulate, so that they eventually became very heavy, were about what happened afterwards to the people. So if you operated on somebody with a cancer, you were always worrying that you were going to get that unwelcome phone call from somebody that they had a recurrence. Or in the case of the transplant patient, because the mechanisms of engraftment were not known, transplantation was a field in which big things were accomplished without knowing why and how. There was no reason to hope at the beginning of transplantation that those operations were cured. That is, if you could put a kidney and it had a chance of lasting for a lifetime. So instead the idea was that you had an alien, foreign organ in there that was under constant attack, and even though it lasted for a year, or a couple of years, that it was slowly, slowly going to go away. And if you actually came to know those patients, and I did, at a personal level in almost every case, you were sitting around like a parent watching over a child with an inevitably slowly advancing disease, and that you were going to get a phone call that the end had come. So if you had patients for whom you had a particular affection, and those uncommonly often were children, you just had an idea that you'd never see them grow up. So it was a deadly wait actually.
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