Helped Ensure Transplant Patient Gets Gift of Life

Elena Koepke, M.D., M.B.A.

Elena Koepke, MD, MBA
Resident Anesthesiologist, Dallas, Texas

Aftermore than a year on a waiting list, a 60-year-old-man with a genetic lung disease was getting the gift of life – a new pair of lungs – transplanted into his body. It was early in the morning and I was an anesthesiologist resident and part of a medical team that included an anesthesiologist and a highly experienced surgeon who had performed hundreds of similar procedures.

Several hours into the surgery with the new lungs working and the patient doing well, everything changed. The patient started bleeding heavily from the chest and it was determined that a vein had been nicked during the procedure.

The anesthesiologist alerted the team that the patient’s blood pressure was dropping and he was at risk of going into shock and dying. The surgeon turned to the anesthesiologist and asked, “What’s the plan?” And our fast, expert response ensured that this transplant patient didn’t lose the chance to use his long-awaited gift. While the surgeon worked to repair the bleed and complete the surgery, we ordered more blood and monitored the patient to make sure he survived.

The wait for a donated organ can be years, but in surgery, it’s often seconds that count.