Transplant surgeon recounts what it's like to wait for organ

The North Dakota physician and his family hope their daughter's story inspires others to become organ donors.

By Damon Adams — Posted Aug. 7, 2006

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

In an Internet posting to a world of strangers, Bhargav Mistry, MD, urged someone to save his little girl.

"This is a matter of life or death," he wrote on a Web site devoted to finding a new liver for his 11-year-old daughter, Karishma, who was diagnosed with biliary atresia.

He asked anyone to consider donating part of his or her liver, and added that a healthy person can donate up to 70% of a liver safely. It was the type of plea that Dr. Mistry, transplant surgeon for MeritCare Health System in Fargo, N.D., usually heard from patients and their families.

This time, though, he was on the other side of the operating table, seeking a donor for his daughter.

Not long after Karishma was born, Dr. Mistry knew she would eventually need a new liver. Neither parent was a suitable match and she was placed on the waiting list for a donor in October 2005. Dr. Mistry said his facility does not do liver transplants, meaning the family would have to travel for the surgery.

Bags were packed so the Mistrys could leave in a hurry.

"We did have much more knowledge than the average person," said Dr. Mistry, whose wife, Bhanu Odedra-Mistry, MD, is an internist for MeritCare. "A transplant is not just about one individual. It affects the entire family."

Having performed dozens of kidney and pancreas transplants, Dr. Mistry knew the routine of waiting for the phone call about a donor. And he's used to getting called in the earliest hours of the morning, when a donor is found for one of his patients. But the call Dr. Mistry got about 2:30 a.m. on May 29, Memorial Day, was for Karishma.

"We were quite excited because she was going downhill quickly," he said.

The family drove to Minnesota. The transplant surgery started that night and was completed the next morning. Karishma, which means "miracle," went home after three weeks and is doing well with her new liver.

"The liver transplant saved her life," her father said.

Dr. Mistry and his wife share Karishma's story with the media in hopes of encouraging physicians and others to sign on as donors.

"If I can make one person become an organ donor by talking about it, it's worth my time," said Dr. Odedra-Mistry, noting that one donor's organs can benefit about 60 people.

At the same time, the experience has given Dr. Mistry a greater understanding of what his patients and their families endure.

"It has made me appreciate more how challenging it can be, not only psychologically but physically," he said. "I respect even more what patients go through."

The Mistrys don't know the name of the donor, only that it was a stranger's daughter who saved their own daughter's life.

Back to top

External links

Karishma Mistry (link)

Back to top



Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story

Read story


American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story

Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story

Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story

Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story

Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story

Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story

Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story

  • Stay informed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn