Leiden / Eurotransplant

My final transplant organization visit was in the city of Leiden at Eurotransplant, perhaps the most unique organ sharing organization in the world.  Eurotransplant is a collaboration between seven western-central European countries (Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, and Slovenia) with greater opportunities for high-urgency organ sharing and immunological compatibility between patients.  The Eurotransplant professionals were excellent sources of information about issues facing this complex, precise, and still-growing organization.

The city of Leiden has several sightseeing treasures as well.  The University of Leiden is the oldest university in the Netherlands.  The university was established as a gift after the conclusion of the 80 Years’ War that established Dutch independence from Spain.  Leiden was the site of a decisive Dutch victory where the citizens released the levees and flooded the countryside, halting the Spanish army’s advance and leading to the eventual Dutch victory.  After the war, the newly independent Dutch royalty offered the city a reward for its actions: the first university in the Netherlands, or perpetual exemption from all taxes.  They chose the university, although a 21st century Leidener may have taken the tax exemption…  The university also contains the first botanical garden in the Netherlands; the first tulips in Europe were grown in this garden by Claudius, beginning a beautiful national heritage.  A historical tradition is the waiting room for PhD students before they defend their thesis, aptly named the “sweatbox”.  The walls are covered with signatures and dates of thesis defenses, including Winston Churchill’s in 1946.

Leiden was also the “home” of the American Pilgrims before setting off to the New World.  After leaving England for religious freedom, they settled in Leiden and took up residence in the Pieterskerk.  An American Pilgrim museum documents their lifestyle preparing for the voyage in Leiden.

The first EKG machine is on display in the science/technology Boerhaave Museum, alongside the Nobel Prize earned by its creator.  Developed in Leiden by Willem Einthoven, the EKG wire filaments could only be made thin enough by dipping an arrow tip in molten metal, then shooting the arrow and allowing the metal to solidify in the flight path.

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