OHSU'S Kidney Transplant Program Celebrates its 40th Anniversary

11/17/99    Portland, Ore.

First kidney transplant patient will reunite after 40 years with surgeons who saved her life.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Charlene Hamilton, the first person to receive a kidney transplant in Oregon at OHSU 40 years ago, will be available to talk to media this week from her home. She has a 100-page scrapbook with get -well cards, her hospital ID bracelet and news articles documenting the event.

On Oct. 9, 1959, surgeons at Oregon Health Sciences University successfully transplanted a kidney for the first time on the West Coast from a 12-year-old girl to her twin sister. Every year on that same date, 52-year-old Charlene Hamilton reads her 100-page scrapbook cover to cover and remembers the gift of a kidney that her sister Charlotte gave her. The book of memories contains stacks of get-well cards, the ID bracelet she wore while at OHSU and the many news articles commemorating the historical event.

At the time, the Hamilton twins were the youngest twins on record, the first on the West Coast and only the 18th in the world to participate in such a transplant. Charlene is one of the longest surviving kidney transplant recipients in the United States based on information from the United Network of Organ Sharing.

"I remember grinning ear to ear the morning after the transplant because I felt better, and I'm still grinning today," says Charlene. "I thank my sister every day for giving me the gift of life. On the anniversary of the transplant I thank God for allowing my sister to give me her kidney."

Nobel Laureate Joseph Murray, M.D., and retired OHSU surgeon Clarence Hodges, M.D., who performed the procedure, and Charlene will reunite this Friday, Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. at the 40th anniversary celebration of OHSU's kidney transplant program.

Charlene suffered from a life-threatening disease called acute glomerulonephritis. Fortunately, tests confirmed that Charlotte's kidneys were healthy and a perfect match. Hodges was head of the school's division of urology and led one of the surgical teams performing the transplant. He remembers the sisters well.

"I was so impressed by Charlotte's ability to make an adult decision," says Hodges. "She wanted to give Charlene her kidney so that her sister would be normal and healthy again."

Murray flew in from Boston to lead the other surgical team. Since that time, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine for his work on kidney transplantation. The Hamilton twins' transplant took five hours and was performed simultaneously in two separate operating rooms.

Hodges, Murray and Charlene will reunite for the first time since the transplant on Friday, Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. at OHSU's 40th Anniversary celebration. The event will take place in OHSU's Old Library. Attendees will include kidney recipients, members of the transplant team and other OHSU faculty. Charlotte is unable to attend. The program will include comments from members of the transplant team, other kidney recipients, historical photos and other medical breakthroughs that made history that week.


  • Program started in 1959
  • More than 2,800 kidneys transplanted
  • In the last 12 months OHSU has performed 159 kidney transplants
  • OHSU's team transplants an average of more than 135 kidney transplants each year
  • One-year organ survival rates (1997, latest year available):
  • Living donor: 98 percent (94 percent national average)
  • Nonliving donor: 96 percent (88 percent national average)
  • OHSU ranks among the top institutions nationally for both patient outcomes and transplant volume
  • 80 percent of patients listed receive transplants within two years
  • 78 years of faculty transplant experience (John Barry, M.D. - 26 years; Douglas Norman, M.D. - 20 years; Eugene Fuchs, M.D. - 19 years; Angelo de Mattos, M.D., - 5 years; Michael Lemmers, M.D. - 5 years; Michael Conlin, M.D. - 3 years)