Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Kidney exhanges making toughest matches possible recently reported some much needed good news for people in need of a kidney transplant. The publication's Kidney Exchange Program Makes 1st Matches story told about a new program started by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) that is already proving to be a success. The new pilot program matches donor-recipient pairs who are incompatible through a pool. Two people, Kathy Niedzwiecki and Ken Crowder, have already received the life-saving kidney transplants they needed because of the program.

Kathy and Ken both had family members who were willing to donate but were not compatible matches for them. Basically, a kidney exchange, also known as a paired donation works something like this - "My (sister, brother, friend, etc.) needs a kidney transplant, but I'm not a match for them. Your (sister, brother, friend) needs one, too. I'll donate a kidney to your (sister, brother, friend), if you'll donate one to my (sister, brother, friend)." It sounds a little complicated, but it's really not. It's kinda like, "I'll scratch my back if you'll scratch mine." In Cathy's case, her sister-in-law donated a kidney to Ken, and Ken's fiancee donated a kidney to Kathy. It's a little convoluted, but it saved two lives and that's what's important.

UNOS spent several years working out the details of the new exchange program, and Kathy and Ken's exchange was the first one done under it. UNOS says that in the last three years more than 700 such exchanges have taken place worldwide. With 77 transplant centers across the U.S. participating in the new program, it is estimated that an additional 1000-3000 kidney transplants can be done each year. The news of the program's roll-out is particularly good for people who need kidney transplants but are hard to find matches for. Doctors believe that this new process with the national pool will make it easier to find matches for them improving their chances of receiving a transplant. It is also believed that once the program completes it's pilot phase more transplant centers will get involved leading to a larger pool and even greater chances of finding compatible matches.

A larger pool with greater chances for a match means more kidney transplants. More kidney transplants means more lives saved. I think we can all agree that's a good thing.

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