A Michigan father of five sparked off a life-saving scheme when in a moment of altruism he offered a kidney transplant to a stranger.
Seeing a news report about a man giving a kidney to a stranger, Mathew Jones, 30, from Petovsky, Mich, decided to do the same, but the transplant centre in Buffalo NY that he went to could not find a match.
The State Journal Register, Springfield, IL reports that Jones was then referred to Dr.Michael Rees, a transplant surgeon at University of Toledo Medical Center, who was trying to devise a sophisticated living-donor pairing system. Rees' father, a computer programmer, had developed donor matching software.
The newly developed system paired Jones with Barb Bunnell, 53, from Arizona whose willing husband’s kidney was incompatible.
This then lead to the Alliance for Paired Donation which was founded by Rees and produced the first 10- person transplant chain, with Bunnell’s husband, Ron, becoming the world’s first “Bridge donor”, (see the New England Journal of Medicine) meaning his kidney was donated later.
The beauty of the chain scheme is that it prevents reneging on the deal. Paired transplants are usually done at the same time on a stranger to stranger exchange. This system allows for recipient relatives to promise to donate when a suitable match turns up and they cannot back out.
Due to obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, which damages people’s kidney’s, the US waiting list for transplants is rising rapidly. There are currently 78,000 people waiting for transplants and 4000 people died waiting in 2008. (see)
Transplants from living donors accounted for more than a third of the 16,514 kidney transplants last year.
Elizabeth Sleeman of the United Network for Organ Sharing believes that the new chain system could lead to an extra 1000 to 2000 transplants a year: "I think it definitely has that potential" to reduce the waiting list, she said.
Dr Rees said: “My dream would be that we eliminate the waiting list because we could turn every altruistic donor into 100 transplants."
Despite feeling “like a truck had run over me” following surgery, Jones said: "There's a very good possibility that when I'm dead and gone, this chain will still be going on."
The Alliance for Paired Donation says that sadly an average of 12 people a day die waiting for transplants but an average patient with end stage renal disease will live 10 years longer if they receive a kidney transplant versus staying on dialysis?