One dinner party. Three transplants. Six lives changed.

By Mark Menotti, Director of Clinical Transplant Services at OHSU

More than 100,000 people in America are waiting for a kidney transplant; sadly, about 13 of these patients die every day because there aren’t enough organ donors.  Many kidney patients have someone who is willing to donate, but because of immune system or blood type incompatibilities, they are not able to give a kidney to their loved one.

The National Kidney Paired Exchanges were created to help.  

Kidney paired donation matches one incompatible donor/recipient pair to another pair in the same situation, so that the donor of the first pair gives to the recipient of the second, and vice versa.  In other words, the two pairs swap kidneys, regardless of where they are located.

Ray and his donor, Kendal.

Paired exchanges also utilize altruistic, or good Samaritan donors.  Altruistic donors are able to start new “chains” through their donation into the exchange itself, versus donating to a specific recipient.   

Sound complicated?  It is!

These transplants involve many additional hours of planning, coordination, and scheduling on the part of countless departments at OHSU and the other transplant centers.

OHSU’s nationally-regarded kidney transplant program is now participating in the paired exchanges.  We recently performed both “paired exchange” and “altruistic chain” transplants.

A fortuitous dinner party.

Our first two OHSU donors were involved in an “internal chain”transplant in early December, which actually started at a party in early 2014.  Donor A’s intended recipient was incompatible. That recipient had been fortunate to find another, compatible donor and was successfully transplanted.

Donor A didn’t stop there, however; they chose to be an altruistic donor and started a new chain.  They matched a recipient with an incompatible donor, whose donor then closed the chain by donating to an unknown recipient on the waiting list. All the surgeries were performed here at OHSU on the same day (watch a FOX 12 news story to meet the recipients and donors).

Six people are now linked together by three living kidney donors.

The very next week, OHSU performed our first “paired exchange” transplant with Swedish hospital in Seattle.  An incompatible donor-recipient pair from OHSU and two other such pairs from Washington state were matched.

All six surgeries were scheduled on the same day, with the donor kidneys being shipped to their compatible recipients. Through this exchange, three recipients got off the waiting list and three donors were able to help their loved one receive a living donor transplant (read the Seattle Times article to learn about the donors and recipients).

I am very happy to report that all patients, both recipients and donors, are doing great!

Click here to learn more about OHSU”s Clinical Transplant Services.

One response to “One dinner party. Three transplants. Six lives changed.

  1. GOD bless all of you and the health care providers that made this happen. Yes, it is a process, but, so worth it.

    I too am a Kidney Donor, but of a different kind. I chose to donate one of my kidneys to a person I did not know. It was thru the NON direct organ donation program thru the U of M in Minnesota. It will be 11 years on May 11th. Back in 2004, they did not have this program that the six of you shared. I chose to not meet my the person that received my kidney, for a few reasons. Back then you could not meet or have any contact with the individual for one year, and after that time BOTH had to agree to meet. After all we were given “2” kidneys at birth, and that was for the reason of sharing “1” with someone in need..

    All the best to all, and take care of that precious gift.

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