View Full Version : Couples set to exchange kidneys

23 Feb 06,, 14:50
Couples set to exchange kidneys
February 23, 2006
BY JIM RITTER Health Reporter

Paulette Chandler watched helplessly as high blood pressure destroyed her husband's kidneys and forced him on to dialysis.

She wanted to give him one of her kidneys so he wouldn't have to spend years on the transplant waiting list. Unfortunately, they have different blood types, so their kidneys wouldn't be a good match.

As it turns out, though, her blood type does match another patient who needs a kidney transplant, Francisco Torres. Torres and his wife don't match, either. But Torres' wife does match Chandler's husband. So the two couples have agreed to exchange kidneys.

Barring last-minute medical complications, the kidney swap will be done today at University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center.

More than 80 paired-kidney swaps have been done around the country, but today's transplants will be the first paired exchange in Illinois.

With more than 65,000 people on the national kidney transplant list, patients are having to wait as long as six years to get kidneys from deceased donors.

Serious side effects

To avoid long waits, more patients are getting kidneys from relatives and friends. In 2004, there were 6,645 living-donor transplants in the United States, compared with 6,327 deceased-donor transplants.

But about one-third of prospective living donors don't match recipients' blood types. It's still possible to do transplants in such cases -- UIC has done 18, said transplant surgeon Dr. Enrico Benedetti. But recipients must take higher doses of immune-suppressing drugs, which can have serious side effects, and there's a higher chance of rejection.

'Allows us to move forward'

Experts estimate kidney swaps could increase the number of living-donor transplants by as much as 10 percent. To increase the number of possible matching pairs, transplant centers are forming consortiums. A donor-recipient pair from one hospital could be matched with a pair from another hospital in the consortium. (Donor-recipient pairs are not limited to spouses.)

Such consortiums are under way in New England and Ohio, and one is being organized in Illinois. The UIC swap "provides some momentum and allows us to move forward," said University of Chicago transplant surgeon Dr. Robert Harland, who is helping organize the Illinois consortium.

"The best thing about this is you get two people off the waiting list, with the best possible kidney."

Before agreeing to the swap, Paulette Chandler, 53, and Alfreda Torres, 40, had the same concern. Neither woman wanted to exchange her kidney for a poor-quality organ.

Benedetti assured them each kidney is the same quality. "I'm healthy as a hog," said Paulette Chandler. "She's healthy as a hog, too."

The Chandlers and the Torreses met for the first time in Benedetti's office on Jan. 24. "We're already friends," Paulette Chandler said.

'Always at warfare'

They flipped a coin to determine the order of surgeries. Doctors first will remove Alfreda Torres' kidney and transplant it into Carl Chandler, 53. Then they will remove Paulette Chandler's kidney and transplant it into Francisco Torres, 62.

Carl Chandler loves his wife, but is glad he didn't have to get her kidney.

"We would always be at warfare, my body against her kidney," he said. "Without a paired program, it would have been kind of bleak."
What a sweet gesture.
I have to wonder why more of this is not being done. If friends and family are being tested as compatible matches for person A anyway, why not try to match them up with person B and try to match the people being tested from person C to person A and person B to person C?

02 Mar 06,, 04:16
I'd feel sorry for the second recipient, as legally the donor could wait until the his partner received the organ, and then backed out. Quite a lot of donors back out at the last minute, and the medical profession has no choice but to let them go.

02 Mar 06,, 04:18
When I read the title, I thought it was going to be about couples to be exchanging kidneys instead of rings :eek: