Children's Medical Center tweets live kidney transplant surgery

(l-r) Amanda, John and Chris Gilbreath

Children's Medical Center in Dallas has become the first hospital to tweet in real time during a transplant surgery.

The 483-bed hospital used Twitter on Monday to provide updates as Chris Gilbreath, a firefighter from Sherman, Texas, gave his left kidney to his three-year-old son John.

John was born with a condition called posterior urethral valves (PUV), which compromises his kidney function, and has undergone nightly 10-hour peritoneal dialysis sessions since birth.

Up until Monday John had been living without either of his kidneys - his left kidney had been removed in February and his right one in April. He had been on the kidney transplant waiting list, but his status went inactive after both kidneys were removed, his mother Amanda Gilbreath said.

Representatives from the public relations department at Children's - where John's surgery was performed - and  UT Southwestern (part of The University of Texas System), where his father's surgery was performed, twittered live from both sites.

Once Chris Gilbreath's left kidney was removed, surgeons worked to limit ischemia time (the time during which no blood runs through the organ) to two hours, staff tweeted.

Kidneys were "nice and pink - no errors or demarcations," staff reported.

"Currently, nearly 85,000 people are on the waiting list for a kidney," said Jessica Newell, media relations manager at Children's Medical Center. "We hope that twittering from this surgery will help raise awareness for organ donation, as well as living organ donation."

"I couldn't be with both my boys during surgery so it will help me feel connected to Chris' surgery, which will be about a quarter of a mile away," Amanda Gilbreath said. "I hope it educates the public about living donations and sparks an interest in others to make a living donation."

Amanda said the hospital approached her about tweeting the surgery. Although she had heard of Twitter, she said she went home and researched it and became a member.

"It will help keep families and friends in tune to what's going on," she said

Children's has become an active participant in other social media platforms, with a YouTube channel, a Facebook page and a blog, which it just launched in April, called "From the Red Balloon."

Photo courtesy of Louis Curtis, Jr.