Archive for the 'Swaps' Category

Nathalie Ouellette and Marc Lacroix had been tellers at the same bank for years. Each was married, and the woman in each couple needed a kidney transplant. Husbands’ kidneys didn’t match their own wives’, but then Marc and Nathalie got to talking. What if Nathalie’s husband was a kidney transplant match for Marc’s wife and vice versa? And they turned out to be right.

“It’s rather unique that they aren’t related and figured it out for themselves,” said Michel Paquet, Ms. Laflamme’s kidney specialist and the Quebec representative on the advisory committee of the national kidney-transplant registry. “Statistically speaking, the odds of it working are highly improbable. But it worked for them. If you set out to find your own donor like that, it would never work.”

Three donors and three recipients comprised the kidney transplant donor chain that included Ronnie and Ruth White. Ronnie donated one of his kidneys to a stranger so that Ruth could have a kidney transplant from another stranger. Ronnie remains amazed.

“We still can’t get our heads around the fact this was possible.”

They had hassles with getting through all the tests, as is common, but in the end, the transplants took place in early 2010.

“As far as I know we were the first people in Northern Ireland to take part in this procedure, and some of the first in the UK. It’s absolutely incredible. I went into theatre at 9am and Ruth got her new kidney at about 3pm the very same day.”

Ronnie never looked back when he didn’t match Ruth, once he heard about the kidney transplant donor chain option.

“As soon as I heard that I thought that if I could help I wanted to go ahead. I may not have known the person who was going to get my kidney, but ultimately Ruth would benefit and as far as I was concerned I had two kidneys and only needed one of them, so it was a pretty straightforward decision. …

“I was sore for a couple of weeks but I helped to save lives and it has made such a difference to Ruth. We’re very pleased with how it all went.”

My kidney sister Cara sends along the story of Brenda Bogue’s experience donating a kidney to a stranger.

I read the newspaper every day. … My journey began one day this past Summer when I came across an article about a man who lost his 16-year-old daughter tragically in a car accident. His daughter was an organ donor, and he was very inspired when he learned that her heart valves saved another person’s life. In her memory, he began to advocate for people to become organ donors.

Early on he learned of the need and opportunity to be a living kidney donor, and he did just this … which is what the article was about.

I, too, have made the decision to donate my organs when I die, but before reading the article this past Summer, I had no idea that it was possible to be a living kidney donor.  I also had no idea how many people were on the waiting list for a kidney, – 87,000 – and how many people were dying each year while waiting for one – approximately 5,000.

I was surprised to learn that a person can lead a normal life with only one kidney, and furthermore, I was encouraged to hear that the donor’s surgery is laparoscopic, which is less invasive than traditional surgery, with a much shorter recovery time.

Although there are always risks with any surgery, being a living kidney donor overall is very safe.

I am a Christian, and therefore I seek out God’s wisdom through prayer before making any big decisions.  Before I even finished reading the newspaper article, I felt God prompting me to consider being a living kidney donor.

I imagined what it would be like to have a family member whose kidneys were failing and in need of a kidney transplant, knowing that without it his/her quality of life would be greatly compromised and significantly shortened.  Undoubtedly, a few of my family members would step up to donate, but what if we learned that none of us were are a match; which unfortunately occurs about 30% of the time.  We would be disheartened; hope is lost. The average wait for a deceased donor kidney is five years.

But then our family learns of the concept of “kidney pairing,” which gives a person in need of a kidney a much better chance of receiving one, if they have a person willing to donate their kidney to another person who is a match.  We have hope again!

My decision to be a living kidney donor came after praying to God for guidance, talking with my husband Mike, and sister Stacey, putting myself “in the other person’s shoes,” and reflecting on the forty-three years of good health that God has blessed me with…for me it was a fairly easy decision.

In the subsequent weeks, I did some further research on the internet on the subject of being a living kidney donor. This included reading about the experiences of two recent donors, Cara Yesawich and Angela Stimpson. I found their blog sites to be very informative and inspiring. Another valuable site with a wealth of information is The Living Kidney Donors network.  There is a wealth of information on this site for both those needing a kidney and for living donors.  Harvey Mysel, founder of the non-profit organization, is a kidney recipient himself and I printed several articles from the site for my family to read so they could fully understand the process.

A very valuable source of information and support to me during my journey in being a living kidney donor, was the mentoring I received from Cara Yesawich.  Cara is an altruistic kidney donor who was the domino for eight people to receive a kidney in largest kidney pairing of Northwestern Hospital’s history.  She is very passionate about being a mentor for others who are on this journey, and in helping to raise the awareness of the need for living kidney donors.

She “walked me through,” each step of my journey and came to the hospital to offer her support immediately following my surgery, what a blessing she was to me!  For anyone considering being a living kidney donor, I strongly encourage you to take advantage of the “gift” of mentorship and I welcome the opportunity to share my experience with anyone.

Please feel free to e-mail me at:

My surgery was on December 30; I am an altruistic donor, and three people were able to receive a kidney in my pairing at Northwestern Hospital.  Everything went as planned; I spent one night in the hospital.  I experienced moderate pain the first several days and slept a lot.  After about a week I turned the corner and was able to return to work half days (my energy still wasn’t back 100%).

I was back to work full-time the third week and now I am about four weeks out from the surgery and feel back to normal. I plan on starting to run again in a week or two and am registered to run another marathon in September.

I received a beautiful card from the family of the gentleman who received my kidney in the kidney pairing …  part of it reads:

“Dear Brenda,

It is impossible to thank someone for a gift such as you have given to us.  Dialysis allowed my dad to live but your gift of a kidney has given him a renewed quality of life worth living, and for that we are eternally grateful….”

The sacrifice that I made in donating one of my kidneys was minimal, compared to the gift of an improved quality of  life which I was able to give to someone else.

Increasing numbers of kidney donations are taking place through paired donations. People who have a willing but incompatible loved one swap kidneys so that everyone ends up with a life-saving transplant.

UNOS recently jumped into the process, adding a wide-reaching registry that promises thousands of matches per year.

“As we think about health care reform, there are very few things in health care that we can point to that both save lives, make people better, and actually cost less money,” Dartmouth Dr. David Axelrod told the AP. “Kidney transplantation is one of them.”

The beneficiaries of the service’s first paired kidney transplant were Kathy Niedzwiecki and Ken Crowder. Their kidneys crossed paths here in Pittsburgh.

Niedzwiecki said she hopes her successful experience will help increase awareness about kidney-paired donation.

“The kidney is the only body part that we have that kind of control over,” she said. “You only need one to survive — you can’t do this with any other body part, but you can do it with a kidney. I know adults and children everywhere who are waiting for kidneys. The more awareness that is out there about this paired donation, the better the system will be.”

I look forward to many more success stories from this program.

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.

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.”

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.

Arlene Hoffman was Jane Delimba’s postal carrier when she heard that Jane needed a kidney transplant. She decided to get tested, and while she didn’t match Jane, she hung in there and signed up for a paired donation program.

Together, they facilitated four kidney transplants recently, and all eight participants – living kidney donors and transplant recipients – are doing well.

Congratulations to everyone, and thank you to Northwestern, whose paired kidney donation program is creating more and more of these miracles.

Christy McGinnity started thinking about being a living kidney donor to a stranger about a year ago. She recently had the opportunity to meet the woman she helped, Regina Davis. Christy’s donation started off a kidney donor chain, since Regina’s daughter donated a kidney to a stranger in another city in return for the gift to her mother.

Christy’s decision to be a living kidney donor began with reading a newspaper article about Lauraleigh Devey, who needed a kidney transplant.

“I didn’t even finish the article,” McGinnity said. “I picked up the phone and called Johns Hopkins. I got caught up in the moment. I didn’t look at it as a big deal. It’s a kidney. God gives you two kidneys, and you can live with one.”

She didn’t end up being a match for Lauraleigh, but the hospital asked if she’d consider donating a kidney to someone else. She said, of course.

“It bothers me that I went 39 years without doing it. I could have helped someone years ago.”

A few months later, the hospital called to see if she would donate to Regina. She would. (In the meantime, Devey had received a kidney transplant from another stranger, in case you were wondering.)

Anyway, after the surgery, they had an opportunity to meet.

“We both looked at each other and the first thing we did was cry,” Davis said. “It was tear city.” …

“I feel very blessed that I could help her,” McGinnity said.

Regina is very appreciative, needless to say.

“Seventy hours a week I spent hooked up to a machine in order to live,” she said. “Will this change my life? Yes. I told [Christy] she is my sister, and I will always have a part of her. She’s given me a second chance at life.”

Congrats to everyone involved! Hope the chain keeps right on rolling.