Chicago man gets kidney transplant awake, goes home next day.


John Nicholas, 28, underwent a groundbreaking kidney transplant at Northwestern Medicine Hospital in Chicago on May 24, 2023. Unlike traditional procedures, Nicholas remained awake throughout the entire surgery, facilitated by spinal anesthesia typically used in Cesarean sections. Remarkably, he was discharged the following day, marking a rare instance of an outpatient kidney transplant.

Dr. Satish Nadig, transplant surgeon and director of the Northwestern Medicine Comprehensive Transplant Center, highlighted the significance of this procedure. He described it as the first of its kind at their facility, emphasizing its potential to minimize surgical risks and shorten hospital stays. “Inside the operating room, it was an incredible experience being able to show a patient what their new kidney looked like before placing it inside the body,” Dr. Nadig remarked.

Nicholas, accompanied by his dedicated medical team, expressed gratitude for the seamless operation. “It was incredibly simple and uneventful,” he recalled. The innovative approach not only aims to reduce complications but also offers a viable option for patients deemed high-risk or with anxieties related to general anesthesia.

The surgery, lasting approximately two hours, proceeded smoothly due to Nicholas’s favorable health status and willingness to participate actively in his care. Reflecting on his experience, Nicholas shared his perspective on being awake during such a critical procedure. “It was a pretty cool experience to know what was happening in real time and be aware of the magnitude of what they were doing,” he said.

Despite receiving sedation for comfort, Nicholas remained aware of his surroundings and the medical milestones achieved during the surgery. “Especially when they called out my name and told me about certain milestones they had reached,” he noted. This level of engagement and awareness underscored the success and patient-centered approach of the procedure.

Nicholas’s journey towards this life-changing operation began years earlier when he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 16. Over time, his kidney function deteriorated, necessitating a transplant. Originally, his mother planned to donate her kidney, but a subsequent breast cancer diagnosis prevented her from doing so.

In a touching display of friendship and support, Nicholas’s best friend from elementary school, Pat Wise, stepped forward as the kidney donor. Wise, 29, resides in Alexandria, Virginia, and made the selfless decision to donate his kidney to save Nicholas’s life. The bond between the two friends was deepened by this act of generosity, symbolizing a testament to enduring friendship and unwavering support during challenging times.

Nicholas’s discharge from the hospital on May 25, just one day after surgery, marked a significant departure from the typical recovery period associated with kidney transplants. Normally, recipients remain hospitalized for two to three days post-surgery, making Nicholas’s rapid recovery and discharge a milestone in medical care.

Northwestern Medicine’s pioneering approach to awake kidney transplants represents a potential paradigm shift in surgical practice. By leveraging spinal anesthesia, the medical team aims to offer patients a safer and more comfortable surgical experience while achieving comparable outcomes to traditional methods. This advancement holds promise for expanding access to transplantation and improving outcomes for patients facing kidney disease.

Groundbreaking procedure received widespread attention for its innovative approach and successful outcome, underscoring Northwestern Medicine’s commitment to advancing medical technology and patient care. As medical professionals continue to refine techniques and expand options for transplant candidates, Nicholas’s story stands as a beacon of hope and possibility in the field of organ transplantation.

John Nicholas’s journey from diagnosis to receiving an awake kidney transplant exemplifies the resilience of the human spirit and the transformative power of medical innovation. With the support of his friend, Pat Wise, and the expertise of Northwestern Medicine’s transplant team, Nicholas embarked on a new chapter of health and vitality, inspiring others facing similar challenges with hope and optimism for the future.


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