An article in the Express-News today discussed a chain of 10 kidney transplants that is started by a single “nondirected” donor. Apparently, most transplants occur when one family member donates to another family member. If there is no family match, the ill person usually needs to wait for a kidney from a cadaver.
The article describes an alternative way to create a multitude of kidney transplants. If one individual will agree to provide a kidney to an anonymous recipient, the hospital will give the kidney to a recipient who has a family member willing to give a kidney to another recipient. Although this type of chain theoretically could go on indefinitely, it is always broken when there is no potential matching set of donors-recipients available. The record chain length for the San Antonio hospital is 16 donors, but the recent story involved 10 donors.
Because the subject interested me, I did some on-line research and learned about a similar program at Johns-Hopkins Hospital. The program website provided an interesting comment from a nondirected donor:
- Becoming a living kidney donor is a serious decision, with some risks, but many rewards. I couldn’t get past the idea that the slim chance that this surgery might affect my quality of life was more than offset by the knowledge that my kidney might mean all the difference to some child who would have no life at all if I backed away.
According to the SA Express-News article, there are 98,000 people currently waiting on such a kidney. According to the National Kidney Foundation, 5,000 people die each year because they couldn’t get a kidney:
- Last year, 16,812 kidney transplants took place in the U.S. Of these, 11,043 kidney transplants came from deceased donors and 5,769 came from living donors. Of the living donors, only 165 were unrelated anonymous donors.
With this number of people needing help, I wonder why there aren’t more nondirected donors. I wonder why I’m not one.
I’m going to ponder this.