Multiplying The Gift of Life: Six-way "chain" results in three kidney donations, connecting strangers for life-saving transplants
Partnership between Children's Mercy and The University of Kansas Health System involves first pediatric recipient, nurse and innovative new employee benefit
This story started as four separate stories. A Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) nurse at Children’s Mercy who had been family friends with a longtime Children’s Mercy patient, was ready to donate her kidney when the patient needed a transplant.
Around the same time, a Baldwin City, Kan., triathlete with a huge heart was determined to donate one of his kidneys after learning about living kidney donation. When doctors at Children’s Mercy and The University of Kansas Health System realized the triathlete’s kidney was a similar match – if not better – for the longtime Children’s Mercy patient, and that the nurse could in turn donate to someone else, the “chain” reaction began.
One of the living donors matched a Wichita man who had been waiting four years on dialysis for a kidney. His mother was no match for him, but her kidney was perfect for a Savonburg, Kan., man on the waitlist for two years.
A total of six surgeries took place at Children’s Mercy and at The University of Kansas Health System on Monday, Oct. 29 and Tuesday, Oct. 30 – three to remove the living donors’ kidneys and three to implant the gift of life into their waiting recipients. Kidney chains traditionally begin with an altruistic donor willing to give their healthy kidney to someone in need – often a complete stranger. Through the thoughtful pairings of this chain, three people were able to get the gift of life instead of one. This was also the first time that a pediatric patient at Children’s Mercy was involved in a transplant chain.
“When we considered this opportunity, I spoke to the nephrologist at The University of Kansas Health System about the need to be assured that having our nurse Christa donate to a second person was not going to have a negative impact on Dayshanae in terms of the donor/recipient match. And so we had to look very, very closely at the match between the altruistic donor and Dayshanae, and Christa and the second recipient, and we found that the matches were favorable in both cases,” Bradley Warady, MD, Director of the Division of Pediatric Nephrology and Director of Dialysis and Transplantation at Children’s Mercy said.
“This was a wonderful collaboration between Children’s Mercy and the University of Kansas Health System. And because of that, future chains will likely occur for other kids followed in the Children’s Mercy End-Stage Kidney Disease program. Our philosophy is to do whatever we can do to expedite successful transplantation in our kids, and shorten their time on dialysis.”
“This event and collaboration with Children’s Mercy illustrates how creative transplant teams can get to make sure a living donor’s desire to help a friend, family or even a stranger is met,” Timothy Schmitt, MD, director of transplantation at The University of Kansas Hospital said.
“The gift of life donated by living donors is always inspiring,” Sean Kumer, MD, PhD, physician vice president of operatives services at The University of Kansas Hospital said. “While our transplant teams have the confidence to do what it takes to benefit our patients, none of this would have been possible without the selfless actions of the organ donors.”
“Living related kidney transplantation is still the best option today for providing long term kidney survival for our pediatric recipients, with half of these kidneys surviving more than 15 years. Unfortunately, a lot of children do not have access to a living donor because they do not have a suitable donor,” Walter Andrews, MD, surgeon at Children’s Mercy said.
“At Children’s Mercy we have several children who are very difficult matches for even a deceased kidney and paired donation provides them with hope that a compatible kidney can be found.”
That motivating factor led staff at both hospitals to do whatever was necessary to create this successful chain.
The structure of this six-patient chain looked like this.
At any given time, around 600,000 people are on dialysis and nearly 100,000 are on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. Yet fewer than 20,000 transplants were done in 2017, of which only 5,835 involved living donors.
Between the two hospitals, hundreds of patients are listed for a kidney transplant and anxiously await a kidney from a deceased donor. The collaboration on this living donor transplant chain and future chains which target the best matches between donors and recipients, will allow more patients – and specifically more pediatric patients – to get the lifesaving transplant they need in much less time.
And there’s yet another story as the perfect postscript: The nurse who wanted to donate her kidney to her friend but was willing to give it to a stranger also becomes the first recipient of the “Warady Benefit” at Children’s Mercy. Honoring Dr. Bradley Warady, who has championed organ donation throughout his career, the benefit will allow employees who become living donors to use up to 40 hours of additional Extended Illness Time as they recover from surgery.
EDITORS/PRODUCERS: Video interviews with patients and physicians as well as surgical broll are available for use by all news outlets and can be found here: