‘Powerful, profound experience’: Patient sings along to rock song during first awake kidney transplant at Northwestern Medicine

John Nicholas displays a picture on his phone of the living donor kidney he received from a friend for transplant. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)

John Nicholas’ go-to karaoke song is “When You Were Young” by The Killers. He remembers hearing it come on as his surgery began, and singing along to it while on the operating table.

That’s because Nicholas, 28, was awake during his kidney transplant at Northwestern Medicine, a first for the hospital.

Nicholas, who was administered regional anesthesia, could hear what the transplant team was saying around him, but for the most part, it felt like “a lot of noise and motion and lights,” he said.

A Chicago resident originally from a north suburb of Indianapolis, Nicholas was diagnosed almost two decades ago with Crohn’s disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease that irritates the lining of the digestive tract. Nicholas started treatment and ultimately got the disease under control, but he battled flare-ups for years.

In 2013, bloodwork indicated that his kidney function was lacking. A biopsy showed that his kidneys were inflamed, and he started taking anti-inflammatory medication, which got the situation under control.

A few years later, when Nicholas was a sophomore in college, he had another episode of heavy inflammation in his kidneys, damaging them further. At that point, it was clear that he would need a kidney transplant.

About two years ago, Nicholas got in touch with the transplant team at Northwestern. He was put on the waiting list, but was also given a questionnaire to send out to any potential living donors who wanted to be evaluated to donate.

Nicholas’ mom went through the paperwork and was cleared to be his donor, but she was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer in December 2023, just before the transplant was to take place. Although her cancer treatment was successful, she was no longer an option as a kidney donor.

“The news came around the time I was home in Indianapolis for the holidays, and I was around my family but also my friend group,” Nicholas said.

He ended up talking to one of his childhood friends, Patrick Wise, 29, about becoming the donor.

“He had strongly considered it before when I was first sending out the questionnaire, before we were proceeding with my mom being the donor,” Nicholas said. “It fortunately did not take very long after my mom was ruled ineligible for Patrick to get cleared to donate, and he was very motivated to do that for me.”

John Nicholas displays a picture on his phone of the living donor kidney he received from a friend for transplant. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune) 

By March, the transplant was scheduled for May 24. Nicholas was preparing for the surgery with the transplant team along with Wise, who now lives in Alexandria, Virginia, and who was flying back and forth for pre-operation appointments.

Dr. Satish Nadig, chief of transplant surgery and director of the Comprehensive Transplant Center at Northwestern, and Dr. Vinayak Rohan, a transplant surgeon and the surgical director for kidney transplant at Northwestern, were both part of Nicholas’ transplant team.

Nadig said the team approached Nicholas before the operation to discuss his options. As Nicholas …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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