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Posts Tagged ‘Paired exchanges’

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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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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I found a nice quote of unknown origin online today:  “Life is an echo.  What you send out comes back.”  It’s reminiscent of the less elegant saying “what goes around comes around,” or the Mother Goose-y idiom “one good turn deserves another.”  All worthy (but probably woefully inadequate) ways of putting into mere words the glorious sentiment that eight people are feeling today at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Columbia, which just conducted a four-way kidney swap, the state’s largest in history. 

Good samaritan Anthony DeGiulio got the idea to donate a kidney altruistically after watching a TV program.  His kidney went to a stranger to him named Barbara, whose husband had wanted to offer his own kidney but wasn’t a match for her.  But the husband was a match for someone else who was needing a kidney, a young woman he’d never met named Alina, whose father had been willing to give her his kidney but wasn’t a match.  The father was a match for a guy named Andrew, though…  and the swap went on, ultimately involving 50 clinicians at once and saving the lives of four and connecting the souls of all eight forever.

An article in the New York Daily News yesterday wrapped up with these three great paragraphs, the last of which features a comment by the gracious man who sparked the chain in motion, Anthony.  It’s a quote that sounds to me much more lovely (and much more personal) than any of the ones at the top of this post.

The [donor organ] swaps, also known as paired exchanges, have been responsible for 373 kidney transplants in the U.S., the United Network for Organ Sharing said.

Doctors at Johns Hopkins University performed a six-way exchange in April. They believe that a national registry of living kidney donors – including those willing to donate to strangers – could result in 6,000 transplants a year.

Some of his friends and family thought DeGiulio was “nuts” to donate his kidney, he said. “I wish it was more common,” he noted. “I sacrificed three days of my life, and this woman gets her life back. If I could feel like this every day, I’d do it any day of the week.”

My thanks to Tom Simon, who called my attention to this event and who serves as a shining source of inspiration to good samaritan donors like Anthony, his three “swap mates,” and the thousands of altruistic donors who give the gift of life so freely strangers in need.

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