HOUSTON – American hospitals are cutting back on organ transplant surgeries. Houston Methodist Hospital is one of them.
The news was disappointing for Michael McBride, who is awaiting a kidney transplant.
“Some days, it’s extremely frustrating," he said. "I’m really angry, not with anybody, just with the situation. But it passes, and you go on.”
McBride said he has been waiting for his transplant since 2018. The operation was first put on hold for a triple heart bypass.
“It was totally, asymptomatic,” he said. “A shock to everybody, because I’d been working out in a pool, with a treadmill, working out, getting my heart rate strong. Everything so I could be ready for the [transplant] surgery.”
McBride’s wife, Kris, recalled receiving the news.
“I fell to my knees,” Kris McBride said. “I’ll be honest with you. I’m a really strong person, but we were five days away. I think that was the worst moment for me. I lost it at that moment. I just couldn’t believe it.”
McBride underwent emergency surgery and recovered.
But his kidney transplant was derailed again in 2019, when his donor, Kris, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“My first thought when it happened was not ‘oh my gosh, I have breast cancer’… it was, ‘oh my gosh, no transplant’,” Kris McBride said.
After a lumpectomy and four weeks of radiation, Kris got the all-clear.
Initially, she was concerned doctors would no longer allow her to donate her kidney, but her lab results came back normal.
The McBrides were given a new transplant date: May 19, 2020.
A few weeks later, the coronavirus pandemic hit. The possible healthcare overhauled caused hospitals across the country to scale back on non-emergency transplant operations, said Dr. Osama Gaber, Director of the J.C. Walter Jr. Transplant Center at Houston Methodist Hospital.
“We usually do between forty and sixty-five transplants a month. We’re now doing maybe ten to fifteen,” Dr. Gaber said. “It’s been hard for us seeing our patients struggle with the delay. It’s been hard for us not being able to do what we usually do, which is wake up every morning and come in and save lives.”
According to Dr. Gaber, transplant patients have pre-existing health conditions and are a greater risk of falling victim to COVID-19.
“The safest thing for some of them, those who are not at the threat of dying within the next 30 days or 60 days, is to just stay home and stay away from the source of the infection,” Dr. Gaber said. “Then hopefully, we can give them a safer transplant in a couple of months.”
Dr. Gaber said there is already a backlog of transplant patients awaiting operations but added his team at Houston Methodist will re-schedule and complete all surgeries.
McBride, who is undergoing dialysis nine hours a day, six days a week, remains positive amid his fight.
“It’s just another bump in the road, but [Kris is] my motivating drive,” McBride said.