The six-way kidney swap Monday at Houston Methodist Hospital proved to be an emotional moment for donors, including Dana Edson, front left, and Kellie Canaday, right, as well as recipients like Rudyne Walker,
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Six-way kidney transplant part of ‘pay-it-forward’ movement
Kidney transplant chain at Houston Methodist involves donors not compatible with family
By Todd Ackerman
No sooner did the recipient of her kidney donation open her envelope and read her name aloud than Olivia Miller began welling up in tears.
Miller made a beeline for the woman, Esmerelda Guerrero, whom she’d met at a clinic just days ago, and gave her a hug. Guerrero, diagnosed with congenital kidney disease at birth, handed Miller a bouquet of white roses and teared up, too.
“We’re sisters now,” Miller told Guerrero.
Similar scenes unfolded five more times at Houston Methodist Hospital on Monday, meeting day for 12 people who’d taken part in a six-way transplant chain. Part of a nearly decade-old pay-it-forward movement that’s shortening transplantation waiting times, the process involves donors whose organ is not compatible with a family member or friend in need, instead giving to a stranger, triggering a chain of such transfers.
The all-time longest chain involved 68 strangers – 34 donors, 34 recipients – at 26 U.S. hospitals over more than three months. Some chains involve a smaller number at one hospital in a day or two.
Such was the chain, or swap, Methodist celebrated Monday. All six were supposed to be done the same day, June 28, but one was postponed until July 26 because the donor’s suddenly understaffed employer couldn’t let her off until then.
That was Kerrville nurse Dana Edson, who decided to donate after a patient spoke of her son’s need for a second kidney transplant and her inability to provide it because she’d already given him one of hers 16 years ago.
“It turned out I was a match for her son, but I was told I could help more people if I would be willing to donate to another stranger,” said Edson. “I knew I was being called by God to do this and wanted to help as many people as I could with my one donation.”
Edson’s altruistic decision started the Methodist chain, orchestrated by a high-tech computer program that finds suitable biological matches of donors and would-be recipients.
Olivia Miller’s kidney failed to match her husband Steve, a diabetes patient for 43 years. The computer matched him with Juan Coronado, who lost 30 pounds to be eligible for the program, so badly did he want to help his wife, Maria, from whom he is separated.
It matched Edson with Rudyne Walker, 71, who’d been diagnosed in 1970 with sickle cell anemia, then in 2015 with stage 5 renal failure.
Dr. A. Osama Gaber, director of Methodist’s transplant center and lead surgeon in two of the transplants, praised chains for their potential for getting patients off waiting lists. There are more than 120,000 U.S. people waiting for life-saving organ transplants, 100,000 of them end-stage kidney patients, according to the National Kidney Foundation
‘Stuck’ on waiting list
“Most patients who cannot find a living donor can be stuck on the national kidney waiting list anywhere from three to six years,” said Gaber. “That can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety, in addition to requiring many hours of dialysis.”
Five percent of patients on the kidney waiting list die every year, vainly waiting for a life-saving transplant. Thirteen succumb daily.
Methodist’s five same-day transplants – three the morning, two in the afternoon – were a complex enterprise, involving about 25 doctors and 25 staff. Gaber, who also assisted in two transplants led by other doctors, said that despite the stress placed on the hospital, the value of performing as many procedures as possible in one day is the relief it provides to the anxiety of patients worried the donor might back out.
Gaber said Methodist held the event at which donors and recipients publicly met for the first time in the hope that it might encourage more people to participate in chains when they don’t match with a loved one.
‘Such a big deal’
No one was more impressed than Cesar Guerrero, Esmerelda’s husband, whose kidney went to a man, Felix Rodriguez, severely burned in a car accident. The Guerreros, Jehovah’s Witnesses who refuse blood transfusions, were turned down by three hospitals before they found Methodist, one of just a handful of U.S. hospitals that perform bloodless transplants for adherents of the religion.
“I really didn’t realize what I was doing was going to be part of such a big deal,” said Cesar. “It was such a joyful experience to be part of, helping extend the lives of so many people.”
source : Houston Chronicle