Singer Bobby Rydell Receives Double Transplant

Bobby Rydell, actor and hit singer from the 1950s and 60s, recently underwent a combined liver and kidney transplant at Jefferson, smack dab in the middle of the “Wildwood Days” (1963) of summer.

The South Philadelphia native, known for such hits as “Volare” (1960), “Kissin’ Time” (1959) and “Wild One” (1960), still calls the city home. So, when he needed a lifesaving transplant, he came to Jefferson.

“Mr. Rydell did not have very long to live,” says Cataldo Doria, MD, PhD, FACS, the Nicoletti Family Professor of Transplant Surgery and director of the Division of Transplant Surgery at Jefferson, as well as co-director of the Liver Tumor Center.

Dr. Doria performed the liver transplant on the singer assisted by fellow transplant surgeon Carlo Ramirez, MD, FACS. The two surgeons then reversed their roles for Rydell’s kidney transplant.

The patient had been placed on the transplant list in late spring.

The seriousness of his condition and the rarity of his situation – he needed simultaneous transplants of two organs – placed him close to the top of the list.

“I was at home eating breakfast when the call came from Jefferson that they had both organs,” recalls Rydell.  “My wife and I packed up and headed to Jefferson immediately to prepare for surgery.”

In fact, Rydell was not the primary recipient of the liver; rather, a child on the waiting list for a new liver at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children was the call. But because a liver can regenerate, surgeons can now perform so-called split-liver transplants, doubling the number of beneficiaries.

In Rydell’s case, he would get the larger portion of the liver and a kidney from the donor, with the small part of the donor liver – about 25 percent – going to a pediatric patient.

Warren Maley, MD, director of Jefferson’s Live Donor Liver Transplant Program, traveled to the hospital where the donor was to procure the organs. First, he split the liver inside the donor’s body before removing the two parts.

Dr. Maley sent the larger portion of the liver and the kidney to Jefferson where Rydell waited in an operating room. The surgeon accompanied the smaller portion of the organ to Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Delaware to assist with the pediatric transplant.

Back in Philadelphia, Drs. Doria and Ramirez proceeded with Rydell’s transplant.

The surgery was a great success. Rydell’s recovery continues to progress on schedule.

“We are thrilled with his results and hope that he will resume his normal life — including a return to the stage,” says Dr. Doria.

With his new lease on life, Rydell advocates for organ donation, telling KYW Newsradio it truly is “the gift of life.”

With the help of his team of transplant surgeons at Jefferson, this American icon of the early days of rock and roll still has “A Lot of Living to Do” (Bye Bye Birdie, 1963).

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7 Responses to Singer Bobby Rydell Receives Double Transplant

  1. Maureen November 28, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

    I am a huge fan of Bobby Rydell. What a powerful story.

  2. Cathy Link March 11, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

    A Jefferson team does it again…Jefferson is a miracle laden medical building..

  3. James m Gilbert Sr. October 2, 2013 at 5:58 am #

    Just found out about Bobby Rydell transplant and found out it was from my girl Julia. Julia was a big part of my life I met her about 5 years ago on the bus. I was the driver, she was just a rider. As the years went on she started to talk to me and then she started to stand by my side and talk to me . Then after a while Julia would talk to me about her whole life things you would tell your dad. And I would get good advice from Julia that helped me with my own daughters. The way we became close people started asking Julia if I was her dad, then she started to call me “Dad”. The night of July 7th, when she was hit by the car, I was supposed to pick her up when she got home from the shore trip. She called me but I happen to be in the emergency room with my own daughter at the time. I was in the same emergency room as Julia and didn’t even know it. I knew something was wrong when I saw her missed call on my cell phone and tried to text her and call her back and got no answer. I knew something was wrong. Long story cut short, I was able to see Julia on Sunday morning before the final decision to pull the plug. I felt so very grateful to have known Julia and to have her in my life. She did not give me a kidney or a liver but touched me in so many other ways. She was truly a special young woman who always cared more about others than herself in spite of her own disabilities and struggles. She would have been truly grateful to know that she helped so many others with her organ donations. I can hear her bragging about helping someone famous, that she is kinda famous now. I was truly touched to hear you acknowledge her at your concert and encourage others to become donors. You never know when you or a loved one might need that help.

  4. Janet Beck October 25, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

    I just read of your transplant Bobby and wish you a complete recovery and excellent health in the future. I have always loved you’re music and am so glad you are still performing. Do you ever have concerts in Florida? I see you’re in Australia next year for awhile,,,have fun!

    You were my 1st heart throb back in the 60s as a young teen…loved wild thing!!! Still love your music, keep singing.

  5. Julie Hudson February 16, 2014 at 9:53 am #

    Dear Bobby, I only read of your transplant and heart surgery in the last fortnight, before being in the audience of your show in Brisbane on Sat. 15th Feb. After seeing my Dad go through heart surgery and then losing him slowly to kidney disease 6 years later, your own story shared with us really hit home with me. It made me realise that we wouldn’t still have you if Julia hadn’t been a donor. Because you were saved you’ve been able to spread the message, and still give so much joy to so many across the world. Me included!
    I was 10 – 12 years of age when I first became aware of you, your songs and style and thought you to be the best of all the ‘heart-throbs’. Still do!
    Am wowed by your energy so soon after major surgery. Wishing you a full recovery, a long and happy life, and many years to keep singing. Hope we see you back in Oz very soon!
    I will be talking to my family about my change to my driver’s licence re being a donor this coming week. Only you have been able to change my mind.

    Thanks for a great night’s singing and entertaining ‘patter’. You brought back so many happy memories for me of my gorgeous husband. The after show autographs and photo with you really topped-off a night I’ll never forget.

    You really are THE Best!

  6. Lolita Hughes March 17, 2014 at 11:57 am #

    Just read this magnificent article on one of my favorite singers of the Rock n Roll era, Bobby Rydell. May he continue entertaining us to whatever degree posssible. Thanks for the informative article of his health progress.


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