Kidney transplant program marks 40 years
by Mary Helen Yarborough
William "Billy" Ashley was a dying man until his sister saved him with the precious gift of one of her own kidneys.
of Dr. Thomas Fitts, who performed the state’s first kidney transplant
at MUSC, were among honored guests during the program’s 40th
anniversary celebration Jan. 23 aboard the USS Yorktown.
That was more than 40 years ago as transplant surgeon Thomas Fitts,
M.D., and a team of surgeons helped make medical history by carefully
removing one of Velma Ashley McAlister’s kidneys and placing it into
her brother’s body. The new kidney added a number of unexpected years
to Ashley’s life.
The father of MUSC’s transplant program, Fitts died in 2008, but his
family; along with surviving members of the Ashley family, including
McAlister, were part of an unprecedented celebration Jan. 23 aboard the
of the first kidney transplant recipient's family, Joyce Ashley Townes
(Billy Ashley's widow), far right, gathered to celebrate life with 650
invited guests from across the Southeast.
More than 650 invited guests attended the event that featured a special
video presentation by the Waring Library, which reflected upon the
experiences of MUSC’s early transplant program and practitioners; the
patients, and McAlister, who attended the celebration.
Hundreds of people from across the Southeast came to share their
stories and friendship with others whose lives were enriched by organ
donation and transplantation. The MUSC program, made possible by
medical frontiersmen and committed surgeons, nurses and
transplant program workers, ranks among the nation’s best.
Featured speakers included MUSC Transplant Center director Kim
Phillips; transplant medical director Prabhakar Baliga, M.D.; MUSC
surgeons and professors, P.R. Rajagopalan, M.D.; Francesca Egidi, M.D.;
and Reuben Wright of Life Point.
Friday, Jan. 30, 2009