PLAINFIELD, NJ — In partnership with the Raritan Valley (NJ) Chapter of the Links Incorporated “HealthLinks Program” and The Liberty Science Center, 15 Plainfield middle school students from Hubbard, Maxson, and Cedarbrook K-8 Center were selected to view a live “kidney transplant” operation on Tuesday by doctors at Saint Barnabas Medical Center.

The students had the opportunity to interact with operating room staff during the live two-hour living-donor kidney transplant surgery in which a husband was donating a kidney to his wife. The operating room surgeon, Dr. Stuart Geffner, said, “This was a very special situation since donors have to match.” Matches are needed for over 93,000 kidney transplants for persons who are on the national waiting list.

As of February 2021, over 107,000 people are on the national transplant list, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. One person can donate up to eight lifesaving organs — heart, two lungs, pancreas, liver, two kidneys, intestines — but only three in 1,000 die in a way that allows for organ donation.

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The students also discussed different types of jobs in the medical field, like surgeons, emergency medical technicians, registered nurses, physicians’ assistant, sonographer/ultrasound technicians, surgical technicians, radiologists and nuclear medicine technologists.

"Hopefully our program will inspire future medical professionals’ success in their career,” said Alejandro Melendez, Distance Learning Specialist at the Liberty Science Center, who facilitates the live surgeries for students.

The following students participated via Zoom from their schools and remotely from home:

  1. Nasiq Jones
  2. Jairo Muralles
  3. Wendy Nkellefack
  4. Jessica Jagmohan
  5. Chisom Okeoma
  6. Donovan Beaty Pompey
  7. Thanya Ramirez
  8. Roberto Ayala Ayala Jusley
  9. Tatiana Herrera
  10. Hector Adenilson Canahui
  11. David Paniagua,
  12. Jaysyn Sadri Shipley
  13. Caroline Hernandez
  14. Marelyn Mabel Trejo Lopez
  15. Jah'nasia Kaye Haynesworth

Plainfield teachers Ms. Way, Ms. DeJesus and Ms. Guardado were also present during the live session.

During the live surgery students were able to view the procedure by Dr. Geffner, Director of Transplant Surgery for The Division of Renal and Pancreas Transplant at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, via a camera inside the operating room. He has performed over 2,000 kidney transplants and over 200 live transplants to show teens the importance of organ donation and the transplantation process.

The students were able to follow the transplant step-by-step as the donor organ was removed, and arteries and veins were clipped and cauterized. Dr. Geffner said the main branch from the renal vein needs to be divided and clipped with metal clips made of titanium (non-reactive in the patient) that will stay with the patient to avoid any type of bleeding. Once Dr. Geffner removed the kidney, he walked to the next operating room to place the organ in the body of the recipient. The surgery was accomplished via laparoscopy, a new method where smaller incisions are made behind the ribs to extract the kidney. No longer do surgeons have to open the body cavity to conduct these surgeries said Dr. Geffner.

Donovan Pompey, an eighth grader at Hubbard Middle School, said when he gets home he is going to tell his mother, “This is the most amazing thing I have ever seen.”

Dr. Diana Mitchell, Superintendent of Schools, who was also viewing the surgery said, “This is one of the many wonderful opportunities provided for our students in Plainfield Public Schools, where great things are happening.”

For more information, email gmontealegre@plainfield.k12.nj.us.