18
December
2017
|
21:30
Europe/Amsterdam

The best gift I ever got: Philip Halloran

For the world’s most influential organ transplant researcher, this holiday gift was nothing short of a miracle.

By LESLEY YOUNG

Who

Philip Halloran, the world’s most influential organ transplant researcher, surgeon, and founder of the Alberta Transplant Applied Genomics Centre

What he got

A medical miracle. More than two decades ago, a transplant patient Halloran was following in the clinic arrived at emergency with a serious infection in his head. It progressed to unconsciousness and the expert opinion was that it was hopeless and that he would die. But Christmas morning, Halloran, who was on call, received notice that the patient had awakened and was speaking. He made a full recovery and left the hospital well.

Why it was so great

“That made a huge impression on all of us. It’s not often in medicine you see what appears to be a miracle, and that it happened Christmas morning was even more impactful.

“Hope must be balanced against the best assessments possible at the time, but sometimes medical assessments, in spite of everything, are not correct. In this patient’s case, the infection interfered with the test results—something which would not happen today, by the way, because we learn from such mistakes.

“Over the years, that gift has taught me to try to look for the possibility of an optimistic outcome, even when my professional judgment and all the experts say it is unlikely—to retain hope. Moreover, just when we think we know everything, the patients teach us something new. And that too is a gift.”