Newswise — Two Loyola University Medical Center patients played a critical role in the National Kidney Registry’s record-breaking 1,000th paired kidney exchange transplant. This is the first program in the world to facilitate 1,000 kidney transplants of this kind.

“The paired exchange transplant movement has allowed recipients with incompatible donors to receive a kidney transplant,” said Amy Lu, MD, division director, Intra-abdominal Transplantation, Transplant Center, Loyola University Health System. “This program wouldn’t be possible without the resources the National Kidney Registry provides and the donors who have stepped forward to help those in need of a life-saving kidney transplant."

The first transplant in this chain began at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center. The 1,000th transplant took place at University of Cincinnati Medical Center. Other transplants in the chain occurred at the Cleveland Clinic, Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, Lahey Clinic, University of Minnesota Medical Center, Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center and Loyola University Medical Center.

Zelda Brown received a kidney through the chain at Loyola on Wednesday, March 12. This was the third kidney she has received. Brown developed hypertension, which led to her first transplant from a deceased donor in 1995. Her body later rejected this kidney and she required a second donation from her brother Chris in 2003. When this kidney began to fail, Brown was told that she would need a new kidney to save her life. She did not have an ideal donor match, so her husband, Jerome Woodson, stepped forward and offered to donate a kidney to an anonymous compatible donor. This made Brown eligible in turn for a donation from another compatible donor identified through the National Kidney Registry. Woodson’s surgery took place on Thursday, March 13.

“God’s will was for me to help someone,” Woodson said about donating a kidney to a stranger.

Patients typically wait as long as five to 10 years to receive a kidney from a deceased donor. Having a living donor can eliminate this wait. But in one-third of such cases, a transplant cannot be performed because the immune systems of the patient and a willing donor aren’t compatible. A paired exchange transplant provides an innovative solution to this problem. In this type of transplant, an incompatible donor of a patient gives a kidney to another patient with an incompatible donor in order for his or her loved one to receive a kidney from a compatible donor in the chain.

“This paired exchange transplant dramatically reduced my waiting time for a kidney,” Brown said. “I am grateful to Jerome and to my donors for saving my life.”

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