Dr. Joseph E. Murray, who performed the world's first successful kidney transplant and won a Nobel Prize for his pioneering work, has died in Boston at age 93.
Since the first kidney transplants on identical twins, hundreds of thousands of transplants on a variety of organs have been performed worldwide. Murray shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1990 with Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, who was honored for his work in bone-marrow transplants.
"Kidney transplants seem so routine now," Murray told The New York Times after he won the Nobel. "But the first one was like Lindbergh's flight across the ocean."
Murray's breakthroughs did not come without criticism, from ethicists and religious leaders. Some people "felt that we were playing God and that we shouldn't be doing all of these 'experiments' on human beings," he told The Associated Press in 2004.
In the early 1950s, there had never been a successful human organ transplant. Murray and his associates at Boston's Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, now Brigham and Women's Hospital, developed new surgical techniques, gaining knowledge by successfully transplanting kidneys on dogs. In December 1954, they found the right patients, Richard Herrick, who had end-stage kidney failure, and his identical twin, Ronald Herrick, both 23.
Because of their identical genetic background, they did not face the biggest problem with transplant patients, the immune system's rejection of foreign tissue.
After the operation, Richard had a functioning kidney transplanted from Ronald. Richard lived eight more years, marrying a nurse he met at the hospital and having two children.
Murray performed more transplants on identical twins over the next few years and tried kidney transplants on other relatives, including fraternal twins, learning more about how to suppress the immune system's rejection of foreign tissue. One patient who received a kidney transplant from a fraternal twin in 1959, plus radiation and a bone-marrow transplant to suppress his immune response, lived for 29 more years.
But it was the development of drugs to suppress the body's immune response, a less radical approach than radiation, that made real breakthroughs in transplants possible. In 1962, Murray and his team successfully completed the first organ transplant from an unrelated donor. The 23-year-old patient, Mel Doucette, received a kidney from a man who had died.
Pioneering female Soviet chess champ dies at 55
Elena Akhmilovskaya Donaldson, once ranked the second-best women's chess player in the world, died Sunday in Seattle, nine months after being diagnosed with brain cancer. She was 55.
Donaldson moved to Seattle after eloping in 1988 with the captain of the U.S. chess team when they were both playing at a tournament in Greece. She went on to win the U.S. women's chess championships in 1990 and 1994 and tied for first in 1993.
Born in Leningrad in 1957, Donaldson learned chess from her mother, who was a regional chess champion in the former Soviet Union, said Donaldson's husband, Georgi Orlov. She attended a state university in Siberia, but before graduating, she left to play chess professionally.
In 1978, when Donaldson was in her early 20s, she won all 10 of her games at the Chess Olympiad, an international team tournament. She played for the Soviets again in 1986, when they won the tournament.
Donna Van Zandt, Donaldson's daughter, said that at that time, her mother was one of the few professional female chess players who had a child. And she was a single mother, having divorced her first husband in 1987.
Van Zandt remembers traveling to some of her mother's tournaments, where other chess stars took care of her while her mother played. Once, she said, her caretaker was World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov.
Van Zandt said her mother lived a glamorous life as a Soviet chess star, owning a condo and wearing fur coats. But in the late 1980s, she left all that behind. She had fallen in love with John Donaldson, then captain of the U.S. men's chess team. When both were playing in Greece in 1988, they eloped and left before the tournament was over.
The couple settled in Seattle. About a year later, Donaldson returned to the Soviet Union to get her daughter, then 7, a trip that made headlines because it was a risky move by someone who had defected.
News reports said Donaldson received permission to take her daughter out of the country, but Van Zandt remembers leaving in the predawn darkness.
Donaldson always succeeded in what she set out to do, Van Zandt said.
"When she had an idea, she would play it out in life as she would at the chess board. And we all know how well she succeeded at playing out her strategies on the board."
Woman cared for in coma for 42 years dies at 59
Edwarda O'Bara, who spent more than four decades in a coma in her Miami Gardens home, cared for by her mother, then by her sister, and who inspired a book and garnered a devoted following across the globe, died Wednesday. She was 59.
She died five years after the death of her mother, who had remained at Edwarda's side since she slipped into a coma.
"I think my mother said, 'Come on, let's go,' " sister Colleen O'Bara said.
Edwarda O'Bara was a teenage high school student who wanted to be a pediatrician in 1970 when she fell ill, throwing up her diabetic medicine. Her family rushed her to the hospital, where she slipped into a coma. Before losing consciousness, she asked her mother to never leave her side.
Kaye O'Bara promised, and she kept her word.
Edwarda returned to the family's Miami Gardens home. She was turned every two hours to keep away bedsores, given insulin and fed through a tube.
She was read to, had music played for her, and constantly had company.
Her father, Joe O'Bara, died in 1976. After his death, Kaye O'Bara continued to care for Edwarda, always saying she was a blessing, not a burden, no matter the piling debts and difficulties.
It inspired author Dr. Wayne Dyer to write the book "A Promise Is A Promise: An Almost Unbelievable Story of a Mother's Unconditional Love and What It Can Teach Us."
Visitors from across the world traveled to the Miami Gardens home, every year, sometimes appearing at the doorstep on random days, other times for Edwarda's yearly birthday party.
"I had to learn you let strangers in," Colleen O'Bara said, "because they aren't strangers."
Through it all, Edwarda remained in a coma. But to her family and followers she remained vibrantly alive. Colleen O'Bara described her as "the best sister in the whole wide world."
Kaye O'Bara, 80, died in her sleep in 2008 in the same room she had shared with Edwarda since 1970. Then Colleen O'Bara took over.
Wednesday morning, O'Bara told her sister she was going to get a cup of coffee and would be right back.
When she returned and gave her sister a shake, Edwarda didn't wake up.