Briton recovers after giving part of lung to US girl

Click to follow
The Independent Online
A BRITISH man was recovering in an American hospital yesterday having crossed the Atlantic to donate part of his lung to a complete stranger.

Ronald Johnson, a caretaker from Northamptonshire, volunteered to help Lisa Ostrovsky, 10, who has cystic fibrosis, after an appeal was published in a Jewish newspaper and on the Internet.

In a six-hour operation on Tuesday at the children's hospital in St Louis, Missouri, Lisa received a lobe of Mr Johnson's lung and a second lobe from her mother, Valentina Kurdumov. Both adults were reported to be "serious but stable" yesterday and Lisa was said to be "critical but stable."

Mr Johnson, 48, had read about Lisa's plight last summer. He phoned her father in Israel at the family home. He had begun a global e-mail campaign to find a donor and raise the $750,000 (pounds 469,000) for the operation when it became clear that Lisa would need a transplant. Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disorder that affects the lungs and few sufferers survive beyond their 30s without a transplant.

Mr Johnson's wife, Denise, warned him the transplant woould involve major surgery and there was a 5 per cent chance of complications but he was not deterred. She told a regional newspaper: "Ronald was having lunch in a park one day and started to read the paper to pass the time when he saw the article about Lisa. He just thought, `I could actually do something to help this child.' And he came home and phoned the girl's dad."

Mr Johnson, who has two children, was one of 20 people who volunteered to be tested to see if they were compatible donors. Mrs Johnson said she had been shocked at his decision although she understood his desire to help. "I don't think it would have mattered whose picture it had been in that paper that day ... he just saw a little girl in need of help. He is a very kind man, very caring. I am overwhelmed, but I am enormously proud of him."

Dr Ilia Ostrovsky, Lisa's father, said: "I thank God for enabling us to get to this point, for helping us come in contact with dedicated medical teams and for enabling us to be connected to someone like Ron Johnson. How can you ever thank someone who extends the gift of life as he has done?"

In the operation, Mr Johnson, who is not being paid for his donation, gave up 18 per cent of his lung capacity but should still be able to lead a normal life.

John Dark, a transplant surgeon who has performed a similar operation involving a cystic fibrosis sufferer at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne,said it was unlikely the operation would have been permitted in Britain. All operations involving live donors unrelated to the recipient have to be approved by the Unrelated Living Donor Transplant Authority, which was set up in response to the 1980s scandal in which Turkish donors were paid for their kidneys in London.

"The authority will vet the situation very carefully to ensure the donation is being made for altruistic reasons. I think it is doubtful they would approve a situation where the donor was unrelated and unknown to the recipient."

Mr Dark said the operation was safe, with a mortality ratae of less than 1 per cent, and Mr Johnson should be back to normal within five to six weeks. He would hardly notice the loss of his lung capacity. "He will find he is a little more out of breath if he tries to run for a bus or climb a third flight of stairs," he said.

Comments