Wife donates kidney to husband in Australian-first robotic kidney transplant

Loved up parents Talitha and Tim Sawley with their sons Joshua and Jacob at Westmead Hospital.

In a life-saving act of love, an Australian-first robotic kidney-transplant surgery procedure has seen a loving wife donate one of her kidneys to her husband. 

The kidney transplant procedure, led by Westmead Hospital surgeons Professor Howard Lau and Professor Henry Pleass, was conducted using the hospital’s state-of-the-art surgical robot. 

It is the first time in Australia that a renal transplant has been conducted via robotic surgery. 

The transplant surgery was carried out after patient Timothy Sawley, 38, was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure.

“Four years ago I was experiencing high blood pressure so the doctors investigated and found that I had 50 per cent kidney function,” Tim said.

“I’m pretty stoked I don’t have to do dialysis.”

The happy family prepares to depart hospital and celebrate Christmas.

Tim’s wife Talitha, also 38, said she didn’t hesitate when she found out she was an eligible donor.

“Tim’s kidney function was dropping rapidly so we searched for the best of the best and ended up in the hands of Dr Richard Phoon, Professor Henry Pleass and Professor Howard Lau at Westmead Hospital,” Talitha said.

Talitha said the decision to donate her kidney to her husband was an easy one.

“I was meant to do it, it just felt like what needed to happen and it could happen, so it was amazing.”

Westmead Hospital surgeon Dr Howard Lau said the Australian-first procedure was a success.

“Robotic assisted kidney transplantation provides a minimally invasive surgery,” Professor Lau said.

Professor Howard Lau at the controls of the robot during a robotic surgery procedure.

“The surgeon controls the robotic arms to perform an operation. The surgeon carries out the procedure, and a robotic console allows for more controlled and precise movements. 

“The aim is to provide renal transplants to patients who may not be suitable for standard open kidney transplant surgery. 

Professor Henry Pleass in a Westmead Hospital operating theatre.

“Tim is doing excellent and will be discharged shortly. He already has normal kidney function, only a few days after surgery.”

Tim and his wife, who are from Merriwa in the Hunter region, will soon depart Westmead Hospital for Christmas with their two children.

Talitha and Tim Sawley.

“Thank you to everyone who looked after me at Westmead Hospital including Dr Richard Phoon, Professor Henry Pleass and Professor Howard Lau, as well as all the nursing staff,” Tim said.

“One of the things I noticed about this hospital is that people are happy and that there is laughter in the hallways. Everyone has been so fantastic.

“And thanks to everyone here I have at least twenty years in front of me which is just amazing.”