44-D’s Impact Diaries: Largest-Ever Kidney Swap Donors and Patients Meet

26 Operations Done Over Six Days Gave 13 People New Kidneys In Huge Lifesaving Effort

Posted by Audiegrl

Kidney donors (left to right) Bill Singleton, Lucien Boyd, Sylvia Glaser, Kelvina Hudgens, Pamela Hull and Tom Otten attend a news conference at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington D.C. on Dec. 15. The donors are part of a record-setting 13-way kidney swap, a pioneering effort to expand transplants to patients who too often never qualify.

Kidney donors (left to right) Bill Singleton, Lucien Boyd, Sylvia Glaser, Kelvina Hudgens, Pamela Hull and Tom Otten attend a news conference at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington D.C. on Dec. 15.

Associated Press—Thirteen patients with healthy new kidneys from what’s believed to be the world’s largest kidney exchange met the donors who made it happen Tuesday — including three who are sure to face the question, “Why?”

A hospice nurse who handed homemade cookies to her operating team. A retired stockbroker who had volunteered with the National Kidney Foundation and decided to walk the talk. And a woman inspired by President Barack Obama’s call to volunteer. They all donated a kidney with nothing to gain — they didn’t have a friend or loved one in the marathon chain of transplants that they helped make possible.

It feels wonderful,” Sylvia Glaser, 69, the hospice nurse, said Tuesday at a news conference where most of the donors and recipients met for the first time. “You are giving someone a life, and there is no substitute for that.”

It’s not like I’m doing anything courageous,” Bill Singleton, 62, the kidney foundation volunteer, told The Associated Press before his surgery. “If I don’t volunteer, who will?”

Kidney exchanges widen the pool of potential donors for the hardest-to-transplant patients — minorities as well as people whose immune systems have become abnormally primed to attack a donated kidney. What happens: Patients find a friend or relative who isn’t compatible with them but will donate on their behalf, and the pairs are mixed to find the most matches.

Roxanne Boyd Williams, left, cries as she meets her kidney donor Tom Otten, a suburban St. Louis police officer, in an emotional reunion at the Georgetown University Hospital in Washington D.C. on Dec. 11. Otten's wife, Irene, also received a kidney as part of the donor chain.

Roxanne Boyd Williams, left, cries as she meets her kidney donor Tom Otten, a suburban St. Louis police officer, in an emotional reunion at the Georgetown University Hospital in Washington D.C. on Dec. 11. Otten's wife, Irene, also received a kidney as part of the donor chain.

But a donor whose kidney isn’t directed to a particular patient — a so-called altruistic or non-directed donor — multiplies the number of operations that can be done in a kidney swap. And Dr. Keith Melancon at Georgetown University Hospital had three such donors, people he calls “pieces of gold.”

People keep wanting to know why, why, why,” Glaser, the Gaithersburg, MD, nurse said before her surgery. “It sounds very trite but you pass through this world, and what do you ever do that makes a difference?”

The AP documented weeks of the complex logistics as Melancon’s team initially planned for a 16-way exchange, juggled donors and recipients for the best matches — and emerged with a record-setting exchange: Twenty-six operations over six days this month at Georgetown and nearby Washington Hospital Center.

Ten of the 13 recipients were African-American, Asian or Hispanic. And five were patients who never would have received a kidney under the traditional system, because they needed an extra blood-cleansing treatment to remove those hyperactive immune cells, treatment that only a handful of hospitals in the country offer.

Kidney transplant recipient Solomon Weldeghebriel, second from left, with kidney donor Bill Singleton, right, holds his children Mahor, 5, left, and daughter Simona Weldeghebriel, 3

Kidney transplant recipient Solomon Weldeghebriel, second from left, with kidney donor Bill Singleton, right, holds his children Mahor, 5, left, and daughter Simona Weldeghebriel, 3

I cannot explain in words. I can raise my children now. He gave me life,” said Solomon Weldeghebriel, 42, a Washington cabdriver. Two of his three children wiggled on his lap as he met Singleton, his donor.

The exchange started with a 45-year-old Maryland woman inspired by President Obama. She asked to remain anonymous but told The AP: “I just wanted to help someone out that needed my help, to give them a better life.”

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12 Comments

Filed under African-Americans, Asian/Pacific Islander, Barack Obama, Charity, Health, Health Care Reform, Hispanic/Latino/Latina, Maryland, Medicine, News, Presidents, Uncategorized, United States, Volunteerism, Washington, DC

12 responses to “44-D’s Impact Diaries: Largest-Ever Kidney Swap Donors and Patients Meet

  1. audiegrl

    What a wonderful Christmas gift (to say the least)

    These people really made a real difference and saved 13 lives…amazing. 🙂

  2. True Christmass spirit, I wish everyone try to do the same…

  3. betsmeier

    That is one awesome story. We need more like that this year. A real breathe of fresh air. 🙂 I have a friend who needs a kidney transplant and none of his family or friends are a match. Also my next door neighbor who is 79 years old needs another transplant. The one that she’s had for years has failed and she has to go to dialysis 3 times a week. 😦

    • audiegrl

      Bets, you should have your friend contact this organization, they are doing incredible things getting people together 🙂

    • Babalola Abiola

      My name is Abiola Babalola,am a Nigerian Based in the Uk,I help people to find a Kidney Donor,so if you need my assistance,you can contact me via email or Phone number.

      Thanks
      Best Regards
      Abiola Babalola
      abiolaolola@yahoo.com
      +2347041751251
      +447011197382

  4. thelcster

    wow, is all i can say… i love that they couldn’t get donors and just tried harder until some wonderful people donated the specific organs they needed. great story…

  5. This is a great news for every nurse. Working in the healthcare industry, I really find it frustrating when patients wait for their donors.

    This really is a great step forward.

    All the best.

    -Rachelle G.

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