In what is the largest single-hospital kidney swap in the history of California, five patients received five kidneys from healthy donors in a marathon series of operations on Friday, April 1st 2011 at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. “Paired donation” is the procedure that makes it possible, a relatively new phenomenon in transplantation surgery that allows for a live kidney going to someone who has a friend or relative willing to donate an organ not compatible for them but a match for someone else. The donor matches one who needs a kidney and that patient’s incompatible donor matches someone else and so on, like a chain.
As of late 2010, a total of approximately 93,000 patients were registered on the kidney transplant waiting list at the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) in the United States. In 2009, the number of live kidney donors declined to a shocking 6,387, leaving at least 87,000 individuals with families in the lurch in the U.S. alone. Lives are at stake worldwide. We have the collective responsibility to support the visions that will improve the health and quality of life for our fellow man, our families, and ourselves. Methuselah Foundation’s vision is rapidly being realized not just in laboratories and medical research departments, but in the sterile environment of the operating room– where it truly counts.
Methuselah Foundation’s angel financing arm funded the development of the bleeding-edge improvement to the Silverstone MatchGrid technology that helped make this rare multi-kidney transplant happen, sticking to our promise of making investments in life-extending technologies that extend lives RIGHT NOW. Matchgrid quickly computes the myriad of possible matches in a pool of prospective donors and recipients, minimizing time, effort, and resources that the transplant center would otherwise require to reach the same goal. Imagine that– in one fell swoop, several lives were extended, even saved!
Our long term vision for this Matchgrid technology? We hope that its massive and super performance data management system will eventually play a role in the an envisioned “Postscript” language that can send printing instructions for creating new tissues and eventually organs to be used by tissue printers such as Organovo’s sci-fi worthy 3D tissue printer, another founding angel investment by you, the donors of Methuselah Foundation.
David Jacobs of San Francisco began developing the system for California Pacific as he recovered from his own kidney transplant surgery in December of 2004. At 54 years old, after losing a brother to kidney disease, he says that he is grateful that he can help others “by providing doctors and clinicians the ability to rapidly and accurately build sophisticated cross-matching tables for paired donations from a varying set of recipient and donor clinical records… [t]hese cross-matching tables enable transplant professionals to rapidly find and analyze potential organ donations by mixing and matching a varying pool of potential donors with recipients in order to provide the best possible placement of compatible organs with recipients that are in need.”
The surgery involved six women and four men, five donors and five recipients. Not one of the patients needing kidneys were compatible with his or her willing donor, be it a friend, spouse or adult child, but another donor was found through the Matchgrid.
An example: 62 year old Alan Langstraat was not a match for his wife of 38 years, April, who inherited a painful condition that caused multiple cysts to form on the kidneys, enlarging her organs. Alan was rejected as a donor until he learned he could be part of the donation chain that made it possible for him to donate to another recipient, making it possible for his wife to receive a kidney from a stranger who agreed to the swap.
“It’s a rare opportunity,” Langstraat said before a surgeon removed one of his kidneys. “This is exactly what we should be doing,” said his wife April, noting the irony of the surgery being performed both on her namesake month and on April Fool’s. She feels blessed that she has options, and remembers with sadness that her uncle, who died of kidney disease, never had such an opportunity.
(Photo cred: Lea Suzuki / The San Francisco Chronicle)
69 year old Leslie Warner is among the five who received a new kidney. “Certainly it’s nice if this works out for, hopefully, five people who are getting kidneys from five other people who want to help. That’s very gratifying and exciting,” she said. She was moved to tears that all her four sons wanted to be tested to see if any of them would be a match. 44 year old David Sidle was the only son to match his mother’s blood type, but a difference in antigens would have caused her to build up antibodies against his kidney. So when Sidle was informed of the possibility to participate in paired donor surgery, he described it as a no-brainer.
“The best outcome for my mom is to get a living donor,” he said. “If I donate a kidney to someone else, that’s what makes that possible. It’s the same outcome for her, even though it’s not my kidney.”
Another recipient, 70 year old Susan Nelson, developed kidney disease from strep throat as a child. After hearing the news about receiving a new organ, she was so excited she practically jumped off her gurney in her hospital gown to go to surgery Friday morning. (Imagine that– a 70 year old woman!)
“This is really going to happen, Suzi,” said her husband of 48 years, Dick.
“Hot dog!” she said before kissing him and shuffling off into surgery.
A 50 year old friend of Susan’s offered to donate a kidney but was rejected as incompatible with Susan. However, she was a match for another patient in the 10-person circle and someone else became a match for Susan Nelson. When the Nelsons arrived at the hospital at 6 am Friday morning, they looked at people all around them and wondered if Susan’s donor was among them. “You don’t know who it is and it really doesn’t make a difference,” Dick Nelson said. “It’s a gift.”
(Photo cred: Lea Suzuki / The San Francisco Chronicle)
5 transplant surgeons, 4 anesthesiologists, 10 operating room nurses, a team of more than 40 support staff, and 4 operating rooms were involved in the process. The first surgery began at 7:30 am. The last patient rolled out of surgery 10 hours later. Hospital officials said that all patients were doing well Friday evening and are expected to be released early next week.
It has only been 57 years since the very first successful kidney transplant in 1954. The idea that in the beginning of the 21st century alone would bring such medical strides such as organ matchmaking, tissue regeneration, chain organ transplantation, and organ printing was the stuff of heady science fiction. Now we are happy to see it as a reality that only grows in scope and magnitude. This gift saves lives more efficiently than ever before. Opportunities like this multiple kidney swap in California – resulting in five lives saved and five families deeply and gratefully affected with many more to come – are what make Methuselah Foundation’s mission worth believing in and striving for.
Colliver, Victoria. “Hospital’s 5-transplant Kidney Swap a State Record.” San Francisco Chronicle. Hearst Newspapers, 02 Apr. 2011. Web. 04 Apr. 2011. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2011/04/02/MNEP1IOMAE.DTL.