That little innie or outie, the universal symbol of every single human’s original, life-giving connection to their mother’s corporal self: The belly button. We all have one. We never really think about it as having a purpose, other than maybe to hold a little dangly piercing on pop stars. And yet increasingly, transplant surgeons are finding a new way of using the navel as a portal to our bodies, re-opening it for the second time in our lives to allow the gift of life to be transported through it.
Today the Associated Press ran a widely picked-up story on the most recent single-incision naval kidney removal at Cleveland Clinic. Eleven of these surgeries have been performed there so far, greatly reducing scarring and recovery times for the kidney donors. A single incision is made at the bellybutton, and everything happens through there. Including extraction of the organ — which blew me away. How, I wondered, can you get a whole kidney through a tiny incision mid belly? Turns out, once the kidney has had its blood supply removed, it shrinks up to be small enough to pass through. Crazy vivid awesome.
I personally benefited from the same kind of advance, but on the liver side. I was the world’s first laparoscopic-assisted liver re-section, and as with the guy in Cleveland, that means a smaller scar — just a simple 4.5-inch straight line down my mid-section. Dr. Alan J. Koffron at Northwestern University inserted a scope through my bellybutton to do all of the cutting and prepping of my right liver lobe — the incision down my chest was made only to remove the organ. If any of you have heard of other centers doing this technique (I hear Pittsburgh has started) do let me know!