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First Organ Donor Dies

First Organ Donor Dies - As Richard Herrick lay dying in Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, he had second thoughts about making medical history. In another room waited his identical twin, Ronald, who was going to donate a kidney to Richard in the world's first successful organ transplant.

"Ron got a note from Richard the night of the surgery telling him to get out of there and go home," said Ronald's wife, Cynthia. "Ron sent a note back saying, 'I'm here and I'm going to stay and that's it.' "

And so it was. On Dec. 23, 1954, Dr. Joseph Murray removed a kidney from Ronald and implanted it in Richard. Years later, Murray shared a Nobel Prize for his groundbreaking work. For the Herrick twins, the results were more immediate and personal. Ronald gave Richard about eight more years of life.

First Organ Donor Dies

The older and more serious of the twins, Ronald Herrick didn't talk about his key role in opening a new venue in medicine unless someone asked, and even then he had to be drawn out if the conversation lasted more than a few sentences. Unassuming and modest, he taught math for decades in high school, junior high, and college. On the side, he kept his hand in farming because he grew up on a family farm and loved the physical work of agriculture.

Mr. Herrick, who suffered from heart ailments that prompted him to retire from teaching and farming in 1997, died Monday in the Augusta Rehabilitation Center in Augusta, Maine, where he was recuperating from heart surgery in October. He was 79 and lived in Belgrade, Maine.

Though he was firm in the note to his brother, Mr. Herrick knew he was risking his life by volunteering for surgery that had never been attempted. A few months earlier, he had started attending Worcester State College.

First Organ Donor Dies


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