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Posts Tagged ‘Paired donation’

This terrific and thoughtful blog post is WAAAAY over my non-math-oriented head, but I enjoyed reading it … so I’m sure any of you who are more mathematically inclined will enjoy it even more.

The blogger writes about a married couple — mathemetician Sommer Gentry and Johns Hopkins transplant surgeon Dorry Segey — who were principal researchers in a paper about how a mathematic algorithm might be applied to pairing thousands of potential donors with thousands of potential kidney recipients in a giant, graceful swap.  The paper they wrote suggests that such a mathematical solution could be a major part of the solution to the organ shortage for kidney recipients, provided it is paired with the appropriate controls to protect social justice and other sociological issues.  (At least, I think that’s what it said! :))

Wow.  This idea might be worth cracking out my old algebra book to understand better!

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Score another achievement for kidney paired donation (or daisy chain transplants, or domino transplants, as they are sometimes called). Johns Hopkins in Baltimore joined Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis and Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City for a 12-patient, six-transplant cross-country kidney chain.

An anonymous altruistic living donor began the chain, and a paitent on the UNOS waiting list for a kidney was the last link. According to the Johns Hopkins news release, all six donors and all six recipients are recovering.

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I’m in a somewhat fragile state, wearing my heart on my sleeve and getting emotional when I see happy transplant stories in the news these days.  (My brother Joe, the recipient of my liver in 2006, has been hospitalized three times in the past six weeks, owing to an unrelenting stricture in his duct at the point of surgical connection from his transplant.  The docs have inserted a subcutaneous line to help him with drainage from his liver, a contraption he’ll likely have to wear for months while the stricture stretches back out to normal dilation. )

So it is with the most ebullient pleasure that I look to this wonderful story on the Kidney Foundation’s Web site, about Mohammad Islam’s gift of his kidney to young Evan Hubbard.  Mohammad gave his gift as part of a kidney donor chain.  His wife had received a kidney from a total stranger, so he agreed to give his to someone for whom he was a match — which became Evan.  Evan’s father Paul, not a match for his son, agreed to keep the pay-forward chain going, and in turn donated his organ to a stranger with whom he was a match, Leroy Baker.

I love the idea of these donation chains, not only because they put on display our very human desire to give back to the universe for the gifts we have been given, but also because they speak to our selflessness as humans.  I could end this post here.  Paul, Muhammed, and Evan’s story is simply beautiful and loaded with hope.

But I am awestruck and inspired by more than just the “pay it forward” angle in this story.  Based on his name, I presume that Mohammad is Muslim, which I mention only because of the following thought.  In almost three years of following living donors in the news, this is the first time I’ve ever seen a story about a living donor in the U.S. who is Muslim.  And, maybe it’s just my personal need for beauty amid my grief right now, or my post-election “high on hope,” but I am bouyed by this reminder that, no matter how many differences we have with the people around us — religion, race, gender, geographies, values, politics — we have so much in common as humans. 

In Africa, there is a marvelous concept of “ubuntu,” literally “me we,” which is bestowed to those people who become their fullest selves through their connections to other people — among people who are marked with kindness, selflessness, approachability, and compassion. 

Hindus and Buddhists use the word “namasté” to say, in one form of meaning, “I honor the place in you in which the entire Universe dwells, I honor the place in you which is of Love, of Integrity, of Wisdom and of Peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are One.”

I don’t know what term, if any, Islam might use to refer to this idea of human connectedness, our humanity as one people.  But I did find this nice page that describes from one Muslim professor’s point of view the presence of humanity at the center of prophecy, for Islam and all religions.

As we ponder the grief and suffering of our loved ones who suffer from organ disease, as we consider our own opportunities to be selfless as living donors, as we encounter differences in the people around us, may we all see above all the commonalities that bind us as humans.  To Paul, Mohammad, and all living donors who either gave to a loved one, payed it forward in a donation chain, or just altruistically chose to give to a stranger, I bow to the ubuntu in all of you. Your grace and humanity lifts my spirits and fills me with awe.

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A basic Google search of the daily news will typically yield at least one story a day about living organ donation, often in small, community newspapers that still devote ample “ink” to telling stories about the humanity that surrounds them.   (The daily appearance of these stories isn’t surprising, given that there are roughly 17 living donor kidney transplants a day in the U.S., and another one or so living donor liver transplants a day. ) 

But I especially love when I find living donor stories ekeing their way into the the really big papers, the ones that more often devote their precious page space to stories to major topics of broad national interest, like economic collapses, wars, famine, hurricane damage, and the popularity of Sarah Palin’s eye glasses.  So hooray to the Wall Street Journal for this September 23 story on pay-it-forward, “daisy chain” kidney donations, such as one that just happened at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.    I’ve written about this topic before… one potential donor, not a match for his or her loved one, goes ahead and donates anyway, to a stranger who does match.  This in turn inspires someone who loves that stranger to donate to another one, and on and on as people get the organs they need and get off of the waiting list. 

As I watch with interest a seeming decline in the number of living donation surgeries around the United States, and an ever-growing list of transplant candidates in need, this kind of story gives me hope.  This quote from the WSJ story suggests it gives hope to the medical community as well:

“This is one of the most exciting things I’ve been involved with in 30 years in this field.”  – Gabriel Danovitch, director of UCLA’s kidney and pancreas transplant program

Props to Troy, my good friend who works at the Wall Street Journal, for the heads up on this one!

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It’s like four blog posts in one today:  My Google news alerts have been practically bursting with stories of living donors these past few days.  Here is a quick digest of some of what’s out there:

  • This Friday in Maryland, Christy Manclark, a mother of two who’s waiting on the list for a kidney, is joining her husband and some friends to put on a show at the Amesbury Playhouse — called “Laughter for Life: a Celebration of Hope — as a fundraiser to offset costs for potential living donors down the line.  She’s using the National Transplant Assistance Fund to manage the money — a terrific resource for transplant recipients because it gives them a tax-free place to collect charitable donations for use to offset expenses related to transplant later on.  
  • Some of you already know that my liver donation in January 2006 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital was the Laparoscopic-Assisted Right Lobe Donor Hepatectomy, or, in plain English, the first time a living liver donor’s liver lobe was removed using a scope inserted through the belly button.  This less-invasive procedure not only is easier on the donor, but also results in a much shorter and straighter scar.   As evidence that the technique is catching on, I noted that last month the Henry Ford Hospital completed the first re-section of this kind in the state of Michigan, on Amy Frankford, who donated her liver to her father, Michael Frankford.
  • There’s a great story with great photos about Sid Kirkland, who spent his 43rd birthday last month donating a kidney to his friend Betsy Justice at Loma Linda Medical Center.
  •  Also in Michigan, the ABC12 news team aired a video segment last Friday on how plasmapheresis and paired donation registries like this one can help and have helped speed the process of finding matching donors. 

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