Indian Transplant Newsletter. Vol.20 Issue No.63. July 2021 - October 2021

Dr. Robert Montgomery's remarkable journey


The life of Dr. Robert Montgomery (58) is a beautiful and truly unique documentary that gives new hope to many transplant recipients across the world. Dr. Montgomery made history as a revolutionary kidney transplant surgeon. He saved the lives of thousands of patients by pioneering techniques that are still used today; but all along, he carried something dark and deadly inside his own body. Dr. Robert Montgomery is a professor of surgery and director of the NYU Langone Transplant Institute. In 1989, he became the first practicing surgeon in the world to receive an implantable cardiac defibrillator (a device that had just been developed at Johns Hopkins) as he suffered from familial dilated cardiomyopathy (a rare, progressive disease of the heart muscle that weakens its pumping ability and causes dangerous arrhythmias). A string of terrifying incidents left him no choice than awaiting a donor heart. His life-threatening symptoms got him priority status on the transplant list but alas his rare blood type (O) and uncommon size made him a tough match.

In 2018, 114,000 Americans needed an organ transplant, but only 36,500 received one. Dr. Robert Montgomery witnessed the nightmare of the transplant list first-hand. In order to improve the transplant rate, Dr. Montgomery and his team have been working to increase the number of organs available for transplant. He has helped with several initiatives that has increased the number of transplants for example domino kidney transplant, eight-way swap transplant. The use of livers infected with hepatitis C (HCV), the deadliest form of the virus, for that purpose is among the most promising. According to Dr. Montgomery, the new generation medications make it safe to transplant organs of all types from HCV-positive donors. The organs of people who died of opioid overdoses who are HCV positive can now be donated to those awaiting transplants.

Dr. Montgomery often told his team that he would take any heart they could find and that he doesn't care if the donor has needle in his arm as he strongly believed any transplant requires weighing the risks against the potential benefits. On 20th September a young, heroin overdose hepatitis C+ donor had been matched with him. He did not hesitate; he readily accepted to have the surgery. The surgery was performed by Dr. Nader Moazami (Heart Transplant Surgeon) and Deane E. Smith (Assistant Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery and Associate Director of Heart Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support) at NYU Langone. In seven hours' time, the team removed the deceased heart, transplanted the healthy heart and closed the incision. Dr. Montgomery went home 10 days after the transplant and a course of medication cleared the virus from his system. Less than a week later he returned to work half-time and soon to his usual long hours. Like all transplant recipients, he takes a cocktail of immunosuppressant drugs to prevent organ rejection and other medications to fend off life-threatening infections. He's grateful for the chance to live that came with the donation, and glad to give back by advancing research on transplants that can have an impact around the world.


How to cite this article:
- Sujatha S, Shroff S. Dr. Robert Montgomery's remarkable journey. Indian Transplant Newsletter. Vol.20 Issue No.63. July 2021 - October 2021

How to cite this URL:
- Sujatha S, Shroff S. Dr. Robert Montgomery's remarkable journey. Indian Transplant Newsletter. Vol.20 Issue No.63. July 2021 - October 2021. Available at:
https://www.itnnews.co.in/indian-transplant-newsletter/issue63/Dr-Robert-Montgomerys-remarkable-journey-1123.htm

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  • Keywords: - Dr. Robert Montgomery, kidney transplant surgeon, implantable cardiac defibrillator, domino kidney transplant, hepatitis C, NYU Langone, heart transplant