'The Good Doctor' in real life: Removing organs to get a tumor

ByKemberly Richardson KTRK logo
Tuesday, September 24, 2019
'The Good Doctor' in real life: Removing organs to get a tumor
Kemberly Richardson reports on the rare, real life surgery that inspired a dramatic scene in The Good Doctor.

NEW YORK -- In the season premiere of 'The Good Doctor,' surgeon Shaun Murphy moved with precision, removing a patient's organs in order to get to a stubborn tumor that wasn't responding to radiation or chemo.

"I tell my friends about it, so we all eat popcorn and watch them together and they think it's totally cool and I think that's awesome," Heather McNamara, a patient, said.

Heather had the same surgery at New York-Presbyterian Hospital as a child.

Dr. Tomoaki Kato performed the extremely rare, complex 23-hour procedure and made sure the writers at "The Good Doctor" and "Grey's Anatomy," which also featured the surgery, got it right.

At the time, Heather was the first child in the world to ever undergo multivisceral ex vivo surgery.

Her tumor was inside her pancreas...

Using organ transplant technology, the team got it out.

"When you do organ transplant, we take the organ out of the donor and put in a preservation solution - put it on ice. Organs can survive in that environment for hours," Dr. Kato said.

Dr. Kato removed Heather's stomach, spleen, liver, small and larger intestines and pancreas. The team cut out the tumor and put everything back together. It was a surgery other doctors said could not be done.

"I was scared to die, but I knew it would be ok if I did if that makes sense," Heather said.

Now a freshman in college, Heather has had a few bumps in the road, but overall is doing great, now that, as her mother put it, "that boo boo in her stomach is gone."

"I live each day to the fullest and make every day count," Heather said.