April 17, 2014 at 1:42 AM
LIVINGSTON, NJ - To mark the 10th anniversary of the Paired Kidney Exchange program at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, recently, 28 kidney transplant recipients and donors met for the first time at a Celebration of Life event. In total, more than 80 people whose lives have been changed through kidney paired donation attended.
The evening highlighted one of the largest single-center kidney paired donation chains in the United States—a nine-pair kidney exchange chain, which took place at Saint Barnabas in September 2013 over a four-day period.
The Renal and Pancreas Transplant Division's Living Donor Paired Exchange Program allows patients who have a willing but incompatible donor the option of joining an exchange registry to be matched with donor/recipient pairs in the same situation. A new innovate Compatible Share Program allows patients who do match with the opportunity to participate in an exchange, which provides a chance to improve the recipient's long-term outcome through matching with a younger donor kidney or one with improved compatibility. More than 200 professionals from Saint Barnabas Medical Center work to meticulously orchestrate these transplant chain from the pre-transplant staff to the operating room, to post-transplant and everything in between. This evening was a testament to the transformative power of kidney donation to the life of an individual and their family.
The evening celebrated two individuals who unlocked chains so that others waiting could receive a transplant through compatible share. In addition, four altruistic donors were also recognized for the selfless act of giving a kidney to someone whom they did not know. Barbara Miller's personal journey to becoming an altruistic donor began when her grandson was born six weeks premature with a kidney disorder and eventually required a transplant. While testing revealed she was a match, it was decided that another family member would donate a kidney. After witnessing the amazing transformation the transplant had for her grandson, Miller said she felt the desire to "give back." She explained, "If I was ready to give my kidney to my grandson, why not someone else?"
Ms. Miller told those considering transplantation that it is an easy process and that the team at Saint Barnabas was supportive and made it easy. She said they were sensitive to her feelings and that the education and preparation was excellent. While many would consider Ms. Miller to be a hero, she said she simply wants to thank the transplant physicians and staff who have dedicated their lives to helping others.
The Barnabas Health Renal and Pancreas Transplant Division is the third largest program in the United States, transplanting close to 300 people each year of which half are living donor transplants. There are over 107,000 patients with kidney disease on the national waiting list, with a current waiting time of five to seven years. Each day, many people die in this country unable to obtain an organ. Saint Barnabas has close to 1,700 people on its lists that are waiting for a deceased donor kidney. On average, living donor transplants last about twice as long as deceased donor transplants, thus transplantation with a living donor kidney is considered to be the best treatment option for those with end-stage renal disease.