SA renal surgeon Mohan Rao an 81-year-old legend in his field
AT 81, one of Australia’s remaining pioneers of kidney transplantation is not showing any signs of slowing down.
Former surgeon Mohan Rao, a Colonel Light Gardens grandfather of seven, was earlier this month helping doctors perform a live donor kidney transplant in Brunei.
“I scrub up with the surgeons and offer my advice,” he says.
Though he retired seven years ago as senior consultant transplant surgeon at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Mr Rao travels to Brunei six times each year to support a kidney transplant program he helped set up in 2014.
“I like to go on helping people and I really enjoy working with patients,” he says.
Mr Rao has trained many doctors here and abroad, conducted the first successful kidney transplant in India and the first live donor transplant in Brunei, set up two international kidney transplant programs and treated tens of thousands of patients across his 50-year career.
But there’s one he remembers most.
Earlier this week, the Pride of Australia nominee, reunited with the patient who helped him make medical history in Adelaide 21 years ago.
In May 1997, Mr Rao performed Australia’s first living donor laparoscopic kidney removal at the QEH on mother-of-three Pamela Prescott, 50.
Pam agreed to the landmark surgery without hesitation so she could donate her kidney to son Tony McDonald who was suffering from auto-immune disease Lupus.
The successful transplant lasted 16 years before Mr McDonald required dialysis.
Mrs Prescott, from Two Wells, and Mr McDonald, from Mallala, thanked Mr Rao for his skill and courage.
“What you did has been a great success and we have helped so many people,” said Mrs Prescott, 71.
The surgery – heavily criticised at the time by transplant surgeons in Australia – has helped more than 445 live kidney donors in SA alone and reduced an average five-day hospital stay to less than 48 hours.
“Mohan Rao is a true pioneer and leader in transplant surgery in Australia and India,” Royal Adelaide Hospital Kidney and Islet Transplantation director Professor Toby Coates said.
“The keyhole donation in 1997 … has become the standard way the whole country performs the living donor operation. It’s greatly reduced the time in hospital and pain for living donors, lowering the barrier for people to make the choice to donate.”
Today, more than 30 per cent of kidney donations in Australia are from live donors. Mr Rao’s work followed that of Professor Jim Lawrence and surgeon Peter Knight, who performed the first live donor kidney transplant in 1965 at the QEH.
Emeritus Prof Lawrence died aged 88 in February this year.