The year 2008 started in a most successful way for the Transplant Programme of the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre (O.C.S.C.), which is expected to give new impetus to the sector of transplant surgery in Greece. More particularly, within the first six months of 2008, a total number of eleven transplantations were performed, nine of which were heart transplantations and two lung transplantations.
Organs offered by Cypriot donors have played a major role in this impressive development. Quite characteristically, over the past six months four transplants came from Cyprus, from the Paraskevaideio Surgical and Transplant Centre and Nicosia’s General Hospital.
In recognition of this major contribution, the O.C.S.C. organised an event in honour of the Ambassador of Cyprus in Athens, Mr. Giorgos Georgis, the Director of the Paraskevaideio Centre in Nicosia, Mr. Giorgos Kyriakidis, as well as Nicosia’s General Hospital, which was represented by the intensive care specialist Dr. Lakis Palazis.
In his talk about the O.C.S.C. Transplant Programme, its Director, Dr. Petros Alivizatos, pointed out that so far a total number of sixty-six people have received transplants, of whom fifty-eight are still living. What is also impressive is the survival percentage for the first year: 95%. This percentage, stressed Dr. Alivizatos, is about 15% higher than those achieved at similar transplant centres in other countries. Even more impressive, however, is the survival rate at twelve years: 75%. It is worth noting that, internationally, the survival rate at twelve years does not exceed 50%. Moreover, five lung transplantations have also been carried out at the Centre, three of which were successful.
O.C.S.C. has also been distinguished for its work in the sector of implanting ventricular assist devices, also known as artificial hearts. It is well-known, said Dr. Petros Alevizatos, that these devices are not substitutes for transplants; they are implanted in the patient’s body in order to prolong his or her survival until a transplant is found. Normally, the average length of time these devices remain inside the patient’s body does not exceed six months, but in Greece, a country well-known for its lack of transplants, such mechanical pumps have kept patients alive for over twenty-four months. Overall, ventricular assist devices have been implanted in thirty-eight patients, seventeen of whom eventually received transplants. Fifteen of these people, said Dr. Alevizatos, are still living, while thirteen others are awaiting the salutary transplant.
The honorary Vice-President of the Onassis Foundation’s Board of Directors Mr. Apostolos Zabelas extended his warm thanks to the General Hospital of Nicosia for the organs offered, the Paraskevaideio Surgical and Transplant Centre, as well as the entire scientific, nursing and administrative staff of the O.C.S.C. for their contribution to the significant progress made by the hospital’s transplant programme. Apostolos Zabelas also referred to the impressive results achieved by the O.C.S.C. ― the first of the major projects, he said, that the Onassis Foundation’s Board of Directors visualised and realised. “Thanks to its success, even in its first years of operation, the Greek patients felt safe enough and stopped traveling abroad for this kind of surgical procedures. This is even truer today, given the development of the hospital’s heart and lung transplant programme.”
“The sector of health has been a constant priority in the programmatic planning of the Onassis Foundation”, added Mr. Zabelas. Recently, the Foundation funded the updating of O.C.S.C.’s entire biomedical and technical equipment, as well as the purchase and installation of a state-of-the-art CT-scanner. “The Foundation,” concluded Mr. Zabelas, “will always stand by the hospital’s side, offering both its moral and material assistance in order to support its efforts for further developing its health programmes.”
The President of the O.C.S.C., Professor Ioannis Papadimitriou, said that he felt proud of the transplant programme’s success and, in his turn, praised the Onassis Foundation both for its contribution to the programme and its support to the overall operation of the O.C.S.C.
The President of the Association of O.C.S.C. Transplant Recipients, Mr. Antonis Yalelakis, gave a very moving talk and thanked both the O.C.S.C. staff and the Onassis Foundation for their efforts to develop the Transplant Programme. “My thanks are also due to all the other transplant recipients at the Centre, with whom we have developed genuine brotherly bonds. People must understand that transplantation is not just another medical procedure, but an actual offer of love and humanity,” noted Antonis Yalelakis.
Closing the official greetings, the Ambassador of Cyprus Mr. Giorgos Georgis thanked the Onassis Foundation and the O.C.S.C. for their collaboration. “The O.C.S.C. has significantly contributed to the restoration of many Cypriots’ health, and we firmly believe that by offering transplants we also contribute to the development of the Transplant Programme,” he noted.
The event was also attended by the patients who have recently received transplants from Cypriot donors, the Cypriot patients of the O.C.S.C.’s Transplant Programme, the O.C.S.C.’s Transplant Team, as well as several transplant recipients. At the event’s closing, honorary plaques were awarded to the Cypriot representatives.