Surgical team (left to right): Dr Dave Harnanan, Dr Malcolm Samuel, Dr Ariel Valeron and Dr Gabriel Galvis.


“Your kidneys are failing, and we need to start dialysis.” These are words no patient wants to hear, nor would any medical physician like to share. However, every day in the United States, over 20 patients die waiting for an organ and more than 120,048 men, women, and children await life-saving organ transplants according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Regrettably, the need for organ donors is much greater than the number of people who actually donate.

Organ donation and transplantation is one of the great advances in modern medicine. Organ donation is the process of surgically removing an organ or tissue from one person (the organ donor) and placing it into another person (the recipient). Transplantation is necessary because the recipient’s organ has failed or has been damaged by disease or injury.

What organs can be transplanted?

Organ transplants include kidney, pancreas, liver, heart, lung and intestine. Vascularized composite allografts (VCAs), are now also possible, including face and hand transplantation. Sometimes, “double” transplants are done, such as kidney/pancreas or heart/lung. Kidney transplants are the most common type of transplant surgery; the least common single-organ transplants are the intestines.

Life-saving Kidney Transplants from 2006 in T&T

There are approximately 1,200 persons currently on dialysis in Trinidad and Tobago due to kidney failure: When a person’s kidneys fail, there are two treatment options – dialysis or organ transplantation. Having a person dependent on dialysis for life is not the optimum situation. In fact, kidney transplantation is the best option for a person to live a healthy and productive life.

The National Organ Transplant Unit (NOTU) opened its doors in 2006 to provide life-saving kidney transplants for patients with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) as well as life improving corneal transplants. “Since 2010, the Ministry of Health has collaborated with Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Donation & Transplantation Institute (DTI), a non-profit organisation founded in Barcelona, to improve organ and tissue donation in Trinidad and Tobago. We have since provided 194 kidney transplants both from living and deceased donors” shared Dr Hassina Mohammed, Transplant Procurement Manager, NOTU.

Life changed for this 72-year-old male on dialysis

Trinidad and Tobago boasts of being the only Caribbean country with legislation to allow transplants to be performed and now, we have more to celebrate. On Tuesday 17th November, 2020, history was created as “our oldest recipient, 72 years, received a living donor kidney transplant from his son” Dr Mohammed shared enthusiastically.

“Our previous eldest recipient was 66 years old. This is not only the oldest recipient for Organ Donation in T&T, but also the Caribbean. The patient was previously on dialysis for approximately two years and since then has been medically optimised for his transplant. The kidney retrieval and transplantation took place at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex. The surgical team was led by Dr Malcolm Samuel, the anaesthetic team led by Dr Sacha Bidaisee and post-transplant care to follow. The recipient had an excellent postoperative course with normal kidney function.”

Dr Hassina Mohamed continued, “The gift of organ and tissue donations is either life saving or life improving for those persons in need. We encourage everyone to consider being a donor, either living or deceased. Donor registration can be done at the National Organ Transplant Unit, Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex.”

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You’ll be giving the gift of life. What a legacy to leave behind.


Look out for HEALTH PLUS every Tuesday for more informative and healthful articles. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this topic, please email [email protected]