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First transplant recipients to help celebrate U-M Transplant Center’s 50th anniversary

Media, public invited to ice cream social Sunday celebrating milestone anniversary for organ transplantation program


Ann Arbor, Mich. – Identical twin sisters Janice and Joan Ottenbacher were just 15 years old when they underwent a groundbreaking operation at the University of Michigan.

Janice was dying, her kidneys failing. Joan agreed to donate a kidney. And as their parents waited anxiously, the twins successfully survived the first kidney transplant done in Michigan.

Fifty years later, both are healthy and thriving. They both became nurses, got married, had children and grandchildren.

This Sunday, they will join with the University of Michigan community to celebrate the 50th anniversary during an ice cream social at Crisler Center, 333 E. Stadium Boulevard from 1 to 5 p.m.

“I should have not been here, 50 years ago, if it weren’t for God’s hand in our life and the technology and the doctors and nurses at the hospital,” says Janice Ottenbacher Schroeder, who now lives in Craig, Colorado.

Joan Ottenbacher Teltow, who lives in Casco, Michigan, says her sister Janice gave her $25 for the kidney. But the best gift was having her sister get better and live a long healthy life.

Watch video of Joan and Janice here.

Since the twins’ transplant in 1964, the University of Michigan Transplant Center has done more than 10,026 organ transplants, of which 1,065 were for pediatric patients. Only about a dozen centers nationwide have done that many procedures.

“We are quite proud of the superb legacy and commitment to compassionate care, education and innovative research at the University of Michigan Transplant Center. Our physicians, nurses and the rest of the care and support team make a real and positive difference for patients and families each day,” says Tony Denton, chief operating officer, U-M Hospitals and Health Centers, and Executive Director University Hospitals. Denton will be among several speakers who will make brief remarks at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Transplant has come a long way since the twins’ operation in 1964. At that time, transplant was very new and often limited to identical twins because immunosuppressant drugs weren’t needed to prevent the donor from rejecting the organ.

In the last 20 years, important medical breakthroughs such as tissue typing and immunosuppressant drugs have allowed for a larger number of organ transplants and a longer survival rate for transplant recipients.

“It’s an amazing milestone, and we’re thrilled that Janice and Joan have done so well since that first transplant,” says Jeff Punch, M.D., director of transplantation at U-M.

“The team at the University of Michigan Transplant Center has always been on the cutting edge, and we look forward to a future where we continue to push the state of the art.”

Sunday’s event is free and open to the public, and will feature an ice cream bar with all the toppings, games for kids and giveaways for all who attend. See more at

U-M has one of the oldest and largest transplantation programs in the country and U-M surgeons perform transplants of hearts, lungs, pancreases, livers, kidneys, and corneas. About 400 to 450 transplants are done at U-M annually, mostly kidney transplants followed by liver, heart, lung and pancreas.

More information about becoming an organ, tissue, bone marrow or blood donor is available at


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