Lorna Irungu, 35, is a woman with four kidneys. No, she wasn’t born this way. The marketing and communication consultant from Kenya is one of the rare people who have had three kidney transplants.
In a kidney transplant, the kidneys aren’t removed before the new one is grafted in. But since Irungu had already undergone two transplants, and so had four kidneys inside her, one kidney had to be removed to make space for the new one.
Irungu got her first transplant in 1998, in Nairobi, and the second three years later in Ahmedabad, but both were unsuccessful.
For the first transplant, her father was the donor, and for the second, her elder sister.
Irungu’s now in Delhi for her third transplant at Fortis Flt Lt Rajan Dhall Hospital in Vasant Kunj. The operation was done a month ago by a 20-member team headed by transplant surgeon Dr Rajesh Ahlawat and Dr Vijay Kher. This time, her younger brother donated his kidney.
Sitting comfortably on the couch in the lobby of the hospital, Irungu looked relaxed on Thursday. “I feel best after this transplant, even better than what I felt after my first transplant,” she said, smiling.
The third-transplant surgery is rare, with only a handful being done in India. “We have a database of 1,500 transplants, of which I distinctly remember doing two. The third time, the donor kidney can be placed higher up in the abdomen — so the patient has five kidneys — or one is removed,” said Dr Sandeep Guleria, professor of surgery who heads the kidney transplant unit at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
“While performing the surgery, we relied totally on our instincts as surgeons. We planned the procedure on the spot and that’s what made it challenging ,” added Dr Ahlawat.
Irungu said she was blessed to have found three donors in her family. “I know how difficult it is to find donors and how transplants get delayed indefinitely due to this problem,” she said.
“The other day my nine-year-old nephew asked my sister why I was taking kidneys from almost everyone in the family,” she said on a lighter note, “it’s difficult to explain the gravity of the matter to a nine-year-old.”