Dr. James West would have earned a spot in medical history solely on the basis of his signature achievement as a surgeon. In 1950, West was part of the team at a Chicago-area hospital that was responsible for the first successful human kidney transplant (in this case, into Ruth Tucker, who was in danger of dying from polycystic kidney disease). Drugs to suppress the immune system and prevent it from rejecting a transplanted organ didn't yet exist, so the transplant only lasted three months before it was rejected. But the operation gave Tucker's remaining kidney enough of a break that it could start working again, and she lived for an additional five years as a result. And the breakthrough helped pave the way for the organ transplants that today give tens of thousands of people each year a new lease on life.
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