Feb. 26, 1985: Dr. Thomas Starzl sleeping in an ambulance.
A physician and professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Thomas Starzl pioneered in the field of liver transplantation. He performed his first transplant surgery in 1963 in Denver, Colo. His art put Pitt on the map as one of the leading organ transplant centers in the world.
The Pittsburgh Press called him “a jet-setter with a cause.” He travelled a lot to save people’s lives.
One of many extraordinary life-saving stories is that of Juan Pablo Reymond, a 58-year-old lawyer from Santiago, Chile. Señor Reymond’s family brought him to Pittsburgh for help because they were told Dr. Thomas Starzl was “the best.” Raymond needed a liver transplant.
The ordeal was long and seemed impossible, according to The Pittsburgh Press. “It began when Mary Ann Palumbi, transplant coordinator for Presby, discovered there was a potential donor for the hospital’s transplant patient in Chicago. With a team of surgeons, Starzl flew to Chicago to perform the necessary operation and bring the precious organ back with them. But when they arrived, they found that the liver was not ‘harvestable,’ as experts in the transplant business say.”
“The disappointed physicians came back to Pittsburgh - and almost immediately received word of another potential donor in Winston-Salem, N.C. The team flew there in a private jet, and this time they got what they wanted.”
This photo of a sleeping Dr. Starzl was taken in an ambulance on its way to the North Carolina airport for the return to Pittsburgh and the transplant. He slept for five minutes.
“There was no time for anyone to sleep when the surgical group arrived home,” The Pittsburgh Press reported. “Without resting, they donned operating gowns and began operation… By the time he met the press, Starzl was moving into his third day without sleep.” The operation was successful.
(Photo by John Kaplan, Pittsburgh Press)