In a first time ever medical event, a kidney has been transplanted twice within a two-week period. The second transplant occurred because the transplant did not go successfully for the first recipient.
According to a press release issued by Northwestern Memorial Hospital, this is the first time a kidney was removed from one living transplant recipient and placed in another person.
Ray Fearing, a 27-year-old patient with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), received a kidney donation from his sister, Cera. Unfortunately, days after the transplant, Fearing experienced a reoccurrence of his illness, which became a life-threatening situation. Doctors informed him there was no option but to remove the kidney.
"In over 50 percent of cases, transplant does not stop the process of FSGS. When post surgery tests indicated that Ray was at risk of developing life-threatening conditions due to the reoccurrence of the disease, we had to remove the kidney before he deteriorated," explained Lorenzo Gallon, MD, transplant nephrologist and medical director of the kidney transplant program Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Dr. Gallon, who is also associate professor of medicine and surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, explained the kidney implanted in Fearing was still "relatively healthy" and viable, and could possibly be implanted into another patient that did not have FSGS.
"After numerous discussions to carefully consider this first-ever procedure, we presented Ray with the option to donate his kidney to someone on the national kidney waiting list rather than discarding it," said Gallon.
Doctors informed Fearing they could potentially help someone else by giving it to another patient for implant and it was said "he did not hesitate" to offer the kidney to another person.
After a review conducted by a medical ethics committee, the proposed procedure moved forward, and doctors were allowed to go ahead with the removal of the kidney and subsequently transplant it into another patient.
A 67-year-old man, Erwin Gomez, was the new recipient of the donated kidney. Reportedly, the kidney began to function quickly after being transplanted for a second time and test results indicated any damage done to the kidney by Fearing's FSGS was amazingly reversed.
Fearing is currently back on dialysis "To me giving it to someone else seemed like the right thing to do," said Ray Fearing, who undergoes dialysis several times a week and is not currently a candidate for another kidney, reported USA Today. "This was a gift to me, and I wanted to pass along the gift. I didn't realize what a big thing it was at the time."
Gomez and Fearing met this week for the first time since the surgeries occurred last June. Gomez is reportedly doing very well with his new kidney.
The full report of this remarkable groundbreaking medical story is published in the Apr. 26 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
This is positive news for society. As Digital Journal reported in Feb. 2012, the demand for donated organs has outpaced the supply in Canada. This is not an unusual statistic. According to the National Kidney Foundation, in the U.S. 92,021 people in the U.S. are awaiting a kidney transplant.
In light of this medical first, the fact that kidneys can successfully be removing from a living transplant recipient and re-transplanted into another after a failed transplant occurs, it provides hope that these unequal statistics can be decreased, now that transplanted kidneys may not need be discarded.
In both the U.S. and Canada, kidneys are, by far, the most in-demand organ.