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Doctor who performed first transplant spent entire career at Little Company


By Maura Vizza

Raymond P. Murphy never bragged about helping perform the world's first human organ transplant, and relatives and friends say the Evergreen Park man was a doting doctor and grandfather.

Dr. Murphy died Feb. 18 at Little Company of Mary Hospital from complications associated with periarteritis, said his daughter Marilyn Wholley. He was 84.

Dr. Murphy's reluctant claim to fame was working as a member of the surgical team that performed the world's first human organ transplant on June 17, 1950 at Little Company of Mary in Evergreen Park, said Wholley. Dr. Murphy, along with Drs. James West, Richard Lawler, Edward Clancy and Patrick McNulty, performed a kidney transplant on a 44-year-old woman who lived another five years before dying of an unrelated illness.

"I didn't know about it until I was 10," Wholley noted. "If he knew I was talking about this he wouldn't be happy. He didn't want a lot of attention from it. [The surgeons] loved medicine and did it because they loved the job and didn't want publicity. They were making a contribution to medicine."

Dr. Murphy, fondly known as Dr. Pat, grew up on Chicago's West Side and attended the University of Dayton on a scholarship, Wholley said. He studied medicine at Saint Louis University Medical School and raised his family in Evergreen Park, she added.

The doctor spent his entire medical career at Little Company and loved working there, said Peg Schneider, a nurse and chaplain at the hospital. Dr. Murphy completed an internship at Little Company in 1948 and worked there as a physician and surgeon until he retired in December 1992. After the historic surgery he worked for two years as a surgeon at Fort Hood, Texas, during the Korean War, Wholley recalled.

Schneider took care of some of Dr. Murphy's patients and for the doctor himself when he became a patient at the hospital. He was diagnosed with periarteritis, an inflammation of the outer coat of an artery, in 1972, Wholley said.

"He was extremely well-regarded by the surgeons, nursing staff and patients. I saw his affection for patients," Schneider commented. "We're all human, we all have our days, but in the 45-plus years I knew him, I never heard anything that diminished his integrity and passion for his patients and life."

Aside from making house calls and giving time to his patients, Dr. Murphy was devoted to his wife, two daughters, his grandchildren and 10-month-old great-grandchild, Wholley said. For his 80th birthday his grandchildren wrote a lengthy list of the reasons they loved their "Papa," she added.

"He was very compassionate, had a good sense of humor, he was available for everyone. We feel a tremendous emptiness without him," Wholley said. "My husband said he was like the Norman Rockwell picture come to life."

The humble, 100-percent Irishman had a passion for Notre Dame football and was proud when both his daughters attended the Catholic university in South Bend, Ind., Wholley recalled. He was a storyteller, had a good sense of humor and could tell a joke, but was very meticulous when it came to his job, and he would stay with a dying patient, she added.

"He was a man of dignity and integrity and easy to talk with. I can't recall one moment you didn't meet his graciousness," Schneider noted. "He was transparent. What you see is what you get, he was very genuine."

Dr. Murphy is survived by his wife, Esther; his daughters, Marilyn Wholley and Nancy Rice; his sister, Marion Murphy; and four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.