The Gift that Keeps on Giving: A Breakthrough in Kidney Transplantation in 2007

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Toledo-based Alliance for Paired Donation (APD) announced today the completion of eleven successful kidney transplants in 2007 using its paired exchange matching system. Continuing a series of events that began in July of this year, the Alliance has successfully pioneered the first Never-Ending Altruistic Donor (NEAD) chain. Building on the traditional method of paired exchanges, whereby kidney patients who have a willing but incompatible donor are matched with others in a similar situation, the Alliance uses altruistic (or "good Samaritan") donors to begin a chain of transplants.

Toledo, OH PRWEB) December 23, 2007 -- The Alliance for Paired Donation (APD) announced today the completion of eleven successful kidney transplants in 2007 using its paired exchange matching system. Continuing a series of events that began in July of this year, the Alliance has successfully pioneered the first Never-Ending Altruistic Donor (NEAD) chain. Building on the traditional method of paired exchanges, whereby kidney patients who have a willing but incompatible donor are matched with others in a similar situation, the Alliance uses altruistic (or "good Samaritan") donors to begin a chain of transplants that can be performed in a step-wise fashion, rather than simultaneously. Not only is this logistically easier, but it allows the recipient's loved ones (including their incompatible donor) to be present for the transplant and recovery, before going on to give a kidney to someone else.

On December 7, 2007, the second chain of transplants was begun following a decision by Tracy Armstrong of Toledo, Ohio, to offer his kidney to a stranger. In order to carry out the chain of transplants, Armstrong traveled to Columbus to donate his kidney to Debra Harding at Ohio State University Medical Center. Debra's daughter, Melissa Miller, simultaneously flew to Orlando, Florida, to donate her kidney to Shirley Kopinski at Florida Hospital Transplant Center. On the same day, Shirley's daughter, Ethel Devine, flew from Orlando to the University of Toledo Medical Center to donate a kidney to Ronnie Ridenour of Tennessee. And Ronnie's incompatible donor, Melanie, was prepared to give her kidney in the future to continue the chain. Unlike Debra and Shirley, who enrolled in the APD program through their participating transplant center, Ronnie and Melanie directly contacted the APD through the Alliance for Paired Donation Web site after hearing a story on ABC World News Tonight.

The first two transplants went off as planned. Unfortunately, a last-minute positive cross-match (a blood test to make sure the donor and recipient are compatible) showed that Ridenour had developed antibodies in his blood that might have caused him to reject the kidney from Ethel. Consequently, he was not able to be transplanted.

"I was so dejected when it turned out that Ethel couldn't give a kidney to Ronnie," said Dr. Michael Rees, the kidney transplant surgeon who founded the Alliance for Paired Donation and who would have performed Ridenour's transplant. "They both had traveled a long distance and the families had become fast friends. I knew both families were upset that the transplant had to be called off. However, as I pored over the past few months of data on the incompatible pairs in our system, I realized we had already performed a successful cross-match test with Ethel and another recipient, Mark Templin." It turns out that Templin was a patient who was only able to receive a kidney from about one in a hundred people, so that finding a kidney for him was like finding a needle in a haystack.

Rees then asked the computer programmer who designed the APD system, Jonathan Kopke, to perform a new match run to determine if there might be other potential recipients for Devine's kidney, in order to make sure her gift was given fairly to the person at the top of the list. The computer analyzed more than 100 pairs enrolled through the Alliance's 60 participating transplant centers from across the country. As it happened, Devine could give her kidney to 23 people in the APD system, but the best match was Mark Templin, who just happened to live in Toledo, Ohio.

"I called Ethel on Friday morning and asked 'would you be willing to stay over and give your kidney to a different stranger?'" said Rees. Without hesitation, Devine said yes. On the following Monday, December 10, Templin received the gift of a kidney and a chance for life from Devine.

Templin's daughter, Andrea Saylor, said she had been devastated when she found out earlier this year that she would not be able donate her own kidney to her father. Today she states that not only is she extremely grateful to Devine, she is anxious to "pay it forward" and donate a kidney to someone else on the Alliance for Paired Donation's list of patients in need of a kidney transplant.

Five days after his successful surgery at Ohio State University, Armstrong, now back home in Toledo, went to the hospital where Templin was recovering from his surgery. The visit gave him the opportunity to meet Templin and his family, as well as Devine, the third link in the chain of transplants that Armstrong started. He discovered that all of the donors and recipients were doing well after surgery. Ronnie Ridenour, the Tennessee man who has still been unable to receive a donated kidney, also received some good news. He has been matched with another donor in the most recent match run of the Alliance for Paired Donation and will now begin testing to see if this potential donor will be able to give him a new kidney early in 2008.

The Alliance for Paired Donation is headquartered in Toledo, Ohio. A 501 (c) 3 organization, the mission of the APD is to save lives by significantly shortening the waiting time for kidney patients through kidney paired donation. Learn more about the program by visiting http://www.paireddonation.org , or calling 419-866-5505.

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