Archive for November, 2010

It’s always nice to see a Pittsburgh angle in a kidney story, as a Pittsburgh kidney blogger.

This article details the UNOS project Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) program that will establish a unified database to match kidney swap pairs.

Each pair includes a potential donor who is not medically compatible with his or her original intended recipient, or is less than an optimal match. In the matching process, the computer looks for new combinations between the pairs based on compatible blood and tissue types.

So, I’m sure you are waiting for the Pittsburgh angle. Local geniuses at Carnegie Mellon University have come up with an algorithm that finds long, complicated kidney matching chains.

This is big.

Schoolbus driver Bernadette Rodriguez knew what to do when she heard that fellow driver Jesse Gonzales needed a kidney transplant: She got tested to be a living kidney donor.

“It is really amazing what she has done,” said Jesse’s sister at a recent fundraiser to defray medical bills.

Bernadette  said, “I am really doing fine and feeling really well.”

Behind her was Gonzales who happily added he was feeling great and began hugging Bernadette and her husband, “These two “» are my saints!” It was apparent the pair was moved by the outpouring of well-wishers.

Larry Jackson was surprised to learn that his 24-year-old grandson Ryan Foor had been tested to donate a kidney to him. Ryan, an Iraq War veteran, was thrilled that they matched.

“I just thought I’d give it a try and I ended up being a match,” Foor said. “It made me feel excited.”

Larry’s doctor, David Goldfarb, had high praise for Ryan’s decision to be a living kidney donor and enable Larry’s transplant.

“It’s a wonderful thing,” Goldfarb said of organ donation. “He (Foor) is a motived young man, and the donors are the star of the show. My hat’s off to them.”

Pam Mizerany and Debbie Ismer have worked together for years, helping other people. When Debbie needed a kidney, Pam knew it was time to help a friend. After Debbie waited and waited for a match on the UNOS list, Pam offered to be a living kidney donor.

“People keep asking me why I’m doing this,” Pam said. “For me, it’s more like, ‘Why wouldn’t I do this?’ I have a chance to give her another chance. Debbie has blessed so many people’s lives. I want that to go on.”

CBS News has done a lovely story about kidney  transplant swaps, including the genesis of the National Kidney Registry. Software CEO Garet Hil launched the largest national database of kidney donors after his daughter Samantha’s kidneys began to fail and she needed a kidney transplant.

“I didn’t even know I had two kidneys before this,” Garet said. “It was, you know, not on the radar.”

CBS goes on to detail a 10-kidney transplant chain that included none other than Laura Amador. Max Zapata was the crazy stranger who kicked off the chain that gave Laura a kidney.

It all started with Max Zapata, from Clovis, Calif., who kicked off this chain as the “good Samaritan” donor. He gave a kidney and expected nothing in return.

“I just really felt that it was something that I needed to do in my heart,” Zapata said. “I didn’t know where it would go, but that I knew that it would be something that would help someone out.”

It led to 10 people becoming more healthy, more productive, a bigger part of their families for a lot longer time.

So Laura’s brother Paul donated a kidney to Kirk Larson, whose wife, Teresa, was the next to donate. She found what a lot of living kidney donors find – the joy.

“The more involved you get and the deeper you get into the process – it’s a totally exciting experience really,” Teresa said.

Samantha Hil received a kidney from one of her cousins, but National Kidney Registry founder and dad Garet Hil says he got far more out of his efforts than a kidney for Samantha.

“What we’re doing right now, has had more impact than anything I’ve done, you know, ever. … When you see those people who have come out of these swaps and they’ve got the transplant, it’s a miracle,” Garet said.

It is a miracle. Get involved. You’ll be changed forever.

Kidney swaps are changing the face of organ transplants. In Washington, D.C., 14 people each donated a kidney to someone they did not know so that a loved one could receive a kidney in exchange.

“The patients, it’s a leap of faith for them. This is all done anonymously,” Keith Melancon, M.D., director, kidney/pancreas transplant program at Georgetown University Hospital, explained. “I try to explain to my friends and family how these donors are different people. They’re a breed apart…they’re beautiful people.”

I’m so happy to see that Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writers Andrew Conte and Luis Fabregas were honored for “Failure to Inform,” their series on the failure of the medical system to get eligible dialysis patients on the kidney transplant list. Papers find it hard to fund investigative work at all, these days, so this is especially laudable.

Jackie Gorman will donate a kidney to a man she doesn’t know. Though some of us might have trouble understanding why, she knows exactly why.

Above is the lead-in to an excellent article in the L.A. Times about Jackie’s decision to give a kidney to a stranger. Why is she going to be a living kidney donor? Why not?

But her family and doctors certainly did not take it all that well. Jackie faced most of the objections living kidney donors faced, but she knew the transplant surgery was safe and that she could save a life.

Great column, especially if you are considering living kidney donation and everyone around you is considering your sanity.