The poetry and chaos of organ transplantation

Four teams of surgeons from three hospitals rapidly descended on the body of a middle-aged man lying face up in an unfamiliar hospital’s tight-fitting operating room. By nightfall, the room was ten surgeons and six organs emptier and this man had gifted a handful of patients with new beginnings.

I began my third-year clerkships on an abdominal transplant service. Lacking confidence in a hospital setting and unsure of how to integrate body systems in my patient assessments, the three-week surgical elective pushed me to my limits. There was no way to prepare for what I quickly discovered to be one of the busiest and least forgiving services in medicine. But despite the physical and mental exhaustion, the novelty of an organ transplant excited me every time. I sought out as many opportunities to return to the field as I could, happily completing one cardiothoracic and another abdominal transplant rotation by the time I graduated medical school. The details of my first procurement follow.

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