Morning Medical Update Friday 10-28-22

Media Resources

Jill Chadwick

News Director

Office: (913) 588-5013

Cell: (913) 223-3974


The University of Kansas Health System is treating a total of 43 COVID patients today, down from 54 yesterday. Other significant numbers:

  • 23 with the active virus today, down from 29 yesterday
  • 4 in ICU, down from 5 yesterday
  • 1 on a ventilator, same as yesterday
  • 20 hospitalized but out of acute infection phase, down from 25 yesterday

Key points from today’s guests:

Dr. Sean Kumer, transplant surgeon, Physician VP of Perioperative and Procedural Services

  • When the call went out for help with a 400-pound gorilla who needed kidney surgery, it’s not a call you get every day.
  • With our response, you were able to see the heart of our people here at the Health System -- when people ask for help, people here jump up and they do it.
  • The collaborative nature of our faculty and staff is incredible -- the willingness of people to adjust their busy schedules and move people around just to help a patient.
  • With operating on a gorilla offsite at the zoo, we had to clear a lot of things behind the scenes in order for us to help.
  • We had to address concerns for our team members going to the zoo for the surgery. For instance, what if the gorilla woke up during surgery? Dr. Holzbeierlein and Dr. May are two professionals who run toward fires, which is great, and that's why they're great at their jobs.
  • Everybody was about “how can we do this”, not “why we shouldn’t do this.”

Dr. Jeff Holzbeierlein, clinical service chief, urology, The University of Kansas Health System

  • Curtis had developed a bleed within his kidney and that was what was leading to his blood counts being very low and being anemic. Had that continued, it would have ended Curtis's life within days.
  • The procedure that we did was removal of the right kidney, which we call a radical nephrectomy. That's done very commonly at our Health System for patients typically with kidney cancer. So we were very suspicious that this was a cancer of the kidney that was causing this bleed.
  • In a standard fashion that we might take in a large kidney tumor in a patient, we made an incision under his ribs and then went in and we're able to disconnect the kidney from its blood supply, and then remove it.
  • One of the really challenging components of this procedure was because the original bleed had happened back in the spring about six months prior. That causes a lot of scarring around the kidney and that made the procedure technically challenging.
  • He received the first, or one of the first, blood transfusions for gorillas and that was definitely on our mind going into the surgery. The lack of blood reserve for a gorilla – they were having to get blood donations from his brother who also resides in the zoo – meant we had to work quickly and carefully.

Dr. Danica May, surgical urologist, The University of Kansas Health System

  • The most interesting part about the anesthesia side of things was that it did not render the arms and legs of Curtis to be temporarily “paralyzed”.
  • We had very explicit instructions not to put our hand within his hand because he still had the ability under the anesthesia to unknowingly grasp and break fingers or break your hands.
  • It was just really careful communication from the anesthesia team trusting them to know how to deal with differences in Gorilla anatomy and physiology when it comes to anesthesia.
  • It was a great experience to respond to a call for help with combined expertise from different places.
  • There is a new perspective of how the zoo cares for animals and how humanity comes together for a common goal.

Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of Infection Prevention and Control, The University of Kansas Health System

  • Separately on the health front, some experts are warning of a “tripledemic” of a winter rise in COVID, plus flu and RSV.
  • We do need to be concerned for the very young, the elderly, and the immunosuppressed as RSV can cause a lot of problems.
  • So it's vitally important to protect yourself and continue to get vaccinated against those get that booster and get that influenza vaccine now.

Monday, October 31 at 8:00 a.m. is the next Morning Medical Update. Witches, superheroes, and pirates! Oh my! Halloween is here but trick or treaters might not the biggest scare. We’ll show you how to keep you and your kiddos safe from lurking viruses. And for those with a weak heart we’ll look at whether those scary haunted houses really put you in jeopardy.

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