Nurse Is Transplant Pioneer

On Monday CBS Evening News With Dan Rather's "Eye on America" profiled Joyce Roush, a 45-year-old nurse who works for an organization that procures organs for people in need.

She decided to become a donor herself and give one of her kidneys to anyone who might need it. CBS News Correspondent Richard Schlesinger reports on the life-saving transplant.


Joyce Roush walked into Johns Hopkins Hospital Tuesday morning to keep a promise to herself and a boy she barely knows.

She planned to donate a kidney to 13-year-old Christopher Bienik, who had been on dialysis every day since his kidneys failed last year. She had never even met him until last week.

"I feel great," Joyce said. Most people don't say that on the morning of surgery.

"You know what I thought about all the way out here last night? That last night was Christopher's last night of dialysis," she said.

The surgery involved is relatively new and easier than it used to be but there is still some risk. Doctors make several small incisions and remove the kidney through one of them. Dr. Lloyd Ratner pioneered this surgery.

When Joyce heard about it, she decided it was something she could do. And more than that, it was something she felt she had to do even though nobody she knew needed a transplant.

"It's an unusual request," said Dr. Ratner. He had never had such a request, he said.

Did he think she was crazy? "Well, it crossed my mind," he said.

"I think she lives life to its fullest," her husband, Dr. Richard Roush, said. "She doesn't mind doing things that are a little unusual. She's a very passionate, very giving, very unselfish person. I think of her as an amazing person."

But when his wife first told him of her decision to donate a kidney, Richard was shocked. Joyce had returned from a medical seminar that described a surgical technique that made organ transplants easier.

"Very shortly after she gets home she mentioned, 'Well, this seminar was so wonderful, I think I'm going to donate a kidney,'" he recalled. "That very definitely had a profound effect on me, gave me a lump in my throat and made me feel ill. It caught me off guard. I have adapted to the idea since then."

During the morning operation, Joyce's family waited alongside Christopher.

Four hours after they began, the doctors had Joyce's kidney. Christopher was already prepared and waiting for it to be delivered to his operating room.

Christopher got a first-class kidney, according to Dr. Ratner. "It was really a nice-looking kidney, beautiful vessels. It should do great."

Christopher has a 95 percent chance his kidney will last a year and a 50-50 chance the kidney will last for at least 15 years.

"The whole purpose for us developing this new operation was to try to make it easier for people to donate," said Dr. Ratner.

Less than 24 hours out of the surgery, Joyce's husband relyed his wife's message that "even though there is some discomfort, she would do it all over again."

Part 1: One Woman's Gift Of Life

©1999, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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