50 Years, Same Kidney – The Remarkable Milestone of Thomas Hoag

On 3/7, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles reunited its first
pediatric kidney transplant patient with his childhood nephrologist to
commemorate transplant anniversary

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–In February 1967, 6-year-old Tommy Hoag became the first Children’s
Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) patient ever to undergo a kidney transplant.
A bout with scarlet fever had left Tommy’s kidneys with
glomerulonephritis, a disease that damages their ability to filter waste
and fluids from the blood.

A team of doctors treating Hoag, including then-CHLA pediatric
nephrologist Richard Fine, MD, had concluded that the only way to save
the boy’s life was a renal transplant. The procedure was only a few
years old at the time, most often done between twins and rarely
suggested for children. But blood and tissue tests had shown that
Tommy’s father William was a great match, and doctors were optimistic.

“I remember being wheeled into the operating room and [my father] was
already there and he was happy to see me,” said Hoag, who is now 56 and
lives in Las Vegas (the family lived in the Reseda, California, at the
time of the transplant). “My dad was a baseball fan, a die-hard Dodgers
fan, and also a Babe Ruth fan. When he saw me, he said, ‘Come on in,
Bambino! Let’s get this done!'”

And just as Babe Ruth made his mark on the history books, Thomas Hoag’s
successful transplant has the distinction of holding one of CHLA’s most
notable records – his father’s gift of life has now lasted Thomas 50
years, and counting. Hoag’s kidney is, if not the longest, one of the
longest functioning live donor kidneys to a child in U.S. history.
Doctors say it’s rare for a donor kidney to last so long and consider
Hoag one of CHLA’s biggest success stories.

“The success of Tommy’s transplant really jump-started the Nephrology
program here at Children’s Hospital,” said Carl
, MD, CHLA’s current Chief of Nephrology,
who happened to be a resident in 1967 when Hoag’s surgery took place.
“To date, we have performed nearly 1,100 kidney transplants since
Tommy’s, and have one of the most successful transplant programs in the
country based on recipient and graft survival.”

On Tuesday, March 7, Hoag and Dr. Fine reunited at the hospital for a
ceremony held by CHLA’s current Nephrology team to mark the 50th
anniversary of Hoag’s transplant. Not only was Dr. Fine the one who
diagnosed Hoag with kidney failure and glomerulonephritis, he was the
driving force in starting the Dialysis Program at CHLA that same year.
This program continues to be one of the two largest pediatric dialysis
programs in the United States.

“Seeing Tommy here today, seeing how well he’s done for such a long
period of time, I think, is one of the highlights of my career,” said
Dr. Fine, who also is a professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the Keck
School of Medicine of USC
. Fine said medical literature in the 1960s
discouraged pediatric dialysis and renal transplantation, but he
believed it was the only option on the table to save the young boy’s
life. “We had no idea 50 years ago that we could accomplish having
someone survive with one kidney for 50 years.”

After the ceremony, Hoag also got a chance to sit down and chat with
Gemma Lafontant, 14, CHLA’s most recent kidney transplant patient. Gemma
has chronic kidney disease and received a pre-emptive donor kidney on
Feb. 21. Pre-emptive transplants are ones that take place before
significant kidney failure occurs and are now often recommended to keep
a child from needing to start dialysis.

“It’s amazing that his kidney’s lasted 50 years,” Gemma said. “That
could be me.”

Hoag, who spent six months recuperating in the hospital after his
procedure, found it remarkable that Gemma was able to go home less than
two weeks after her transplant and was glad to be able to give her some
words of encouragement.

“It comes up every now and then that I get asked about being a
‘pioneer,'” Hoag said. “It’s not something I tried to get the record on,
it’s just something that was obviously meant to be. And it’s worked out
well for me and so many others.”

About Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles has been named the best children’s
hospital in California and among the top 10 in the nation for clinical
excellence with its selection to the prestigious U.S. News & World
Report Honor Roll. Children’s Hospital is home to The Saban Research
Institute, one of the largest and most productive pediatric research
facilities in the United States. Children’s Hospital is also one of
America’s premier teaching hospitals through its affiliation with the
Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California since
1932. For more information, visit CHLA.org.
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or its research blog (www.ResearCHLABlog.org).


Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
Owen Lei, 323-361-8433