Q Fever! Medical Humor & Satire

September 6, 2000 | Volume 1, Issue 7

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Organ Shortage Resolution Nears

Grocery store "sweetbreads" long overlooked

PITTSBURGH, PA—Long intentionally overlooked by squeamish shoppers, the nation's huge backlog of unsold "sweetbreads" may be the answer to ongoing shortages of organs for transplantation, according to leading scientiests in the field.

Early this past August, surgeons at the University of Pittsburg announced they had successfully transplanted a package of store-bought beef kidneys into a 32 year-old woman with end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Although the woman has required very high doses of immunosupressive drugs, the kidney is said to be functioning normally.

According to Dr. Andrew Rizzo, the transplant surgeon who coordinated the operation, the idea came to him "out of the blue."
On sale, Aisle 12

On sale, Aisle 12

"I'd just come from yet another Organ Network meeting, and everyone's still talking about the organ shortage. I had to get groceries on the way home, and suddenly it hit me: livers, kidneys, pancreases, hearts! There, in the back of the meat section. I've walked past 'em a million times, but I never thought to transplant them into anyone. And a voice inside me said, go for it!"

According to Larry McNeely, a spokesman for the National Grocer's Alliance, supermarkets are only too happy to get rid of these products. "According to our statistics, these ghoulish items are purchased mostly by Scottish people and by college students who plan to use them for pranks. But usually they're, like, the most difficult items in our inventory to unload, even on the typically clueless American consumer. You BET we're happy they're gonna be used for something!!"

Gross stuff at the butcher counter may not be the only overlooked organ transplantation resource. In an elegant series of experiments earlier this month, scientists at the University of Oklahoma were able to restore some liver function to a cirrhotic patient by infusing him with a chopped liver preparation purchased at a local deli. The patient, a retired Borsht Belt comedian, tolerated the procedure well, but died suddenly several days later, as a result of an "onion embolism".
Beef kidney transplant

Beef kidney transplant

However, according to U of O transplant team leader Dr. Sandra Scott, scientists gained valuable knowledge from this experiment. "We definitely have to be more careful about picking out the bits of onion and chopped egg prior to infusion", she said. Scott cautioned that "as an elderly Jewish man, the patient's chopped liver tolerance was extremely high. It's not clear that these findings are applicable to gentiles, or even to younger Jews."

Meanwhile, surgeons in Pittsburg are preparing to transplant a store-bought slice of pancreas into a 59 year-old diabetic man, while investigators at the N.I.H. explore whether an order of sheep's brains in vinaigrette, purchased at the Middle East Cafe in Bethesda, MD, can improve the cognitive abilities of a head-injury victim.

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