WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Feb. 26, 2009) - Two surgeons from Walter Reed Army Medical Center have performed the first kidney transplants in the Co-operative Republic of Guyana.

Lt. Col. Edward Falta, chief of the Walter Reed organ transplant service, and Dr. Rahul Jindal, assistant chief, returned to Guyana Feb. 1 to perform the country's second kidney transplant. The two surgeons performed the country's first transplant July 12.

Jindal led a team of six this month to the South American country located north of Brazil. The team included Falta, Norma Sandow, head operating room nurse for organ transplant at Walter Reed; Tara Farley, a surgical tech in the transplant department; Jindal's wife, Dr. Kalpana Jindal, a medical internist at Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis, Ind.; and Art Womble, a certified nurse anesthetist and Army Reserve Soldier who supported the first transplant mission.

Falta said local anesthesia and urology physicians, along with operative and critical care nurses, all played an active role in the transplant's success. Together, local and Walter Reed medical professionals formed two teams for the February surgeries that harvested a healthy kidney from a 25-year-old daughter for transplant in her 47-year-old father.

The Army group evaluated 23 patients during the trip and identified five potential candidates for the next transplant mission, which will take place within the next five months. Jindal said Dr. Ravi Purohit, a local Guyanese urologist who assisted with the February surgery, will continue training and take over after 20 kidney transplants.

"From a national perspective, the Guyanese Health Ministry has taken over the logistics and finances of the transplant program, and has been intimately involved with developing a national endeavor," Falta said. "Georgetown Public Hospital has improved as well, advertising and organizing a renal transplant clinic."

Before the Walter Reed humanitarian team arrived, Guyanese citizens who could muster the funds had to travel 9,630 miles to India for transplants. Many in the country struggle to pay for weekly dialysis, a huge economic drain on the community, the government and the people themselves, Falta said after the first mission trip.

It took four months to set up the infrastructure necessary to perform the procedure at Georgetown Public Hospital prior to the initial operation. Falta said there were no special challenges in the second transplant, other than the lack of medications and monitoring methods readily available in the United States.

Leading up to the February surgery, Jindal communicated weekly with local physicians by phone and email.

The donor and kidney recipient from this month's mission were discharged from the hospital and Jindal reported both are doing very well. He added the mother donor and recipient son from the July transplant are also in good health.

(Sharon Renee Taylor writes for the Stripe newspaper at Walter Reed.)