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Monday, December 20, 2004

Kidney Swaps- Pudding and Pie

With enough fine Cianti discussing kidneys, or lack thereof, is a little less tasteless...

Kidney swaps keep patients alive with a series of trades among willing strangers

Lindbergh and Mary Porter grew up in a small black Mississippi farming town, fell in love in college and raised a family in San Francisco. Cousins Tyson Zeches of Bolinas and Kelly Watt of Michigan had not seen each other since they were 5 years old.

While the two pairs had never met, they shared a common problem -- two were in need of a kidney transplant while the other two were willing donors whose organs were incompatible with their loved ones. How the four lives ultimately intersect is a complex tale. But through an innovative, four- operation "kidney swap,'' these strangers were able to change each other's lives forever.

Kidney swaps are seen by a growing number of doctors and desperate couples as a way to increase the number of organs available to save lives. The procedure brings together donors who want to give an organ to a relative or friend but can't because they are incompatible.

More than 56,000 patients are on waiting lists for kidney transplants nationwide. But only about 8,000 kidneys are available for transplant each year. The wait can take years, leaving patients dependent on dialysis, which robs them of their freedom.


Doctors realized they had willing volunteers and approached everyone involved. What followed were compatibility and health tests and then surgery.

"Locally, the waiting list for a kidney transplant is four to six years," said Steven Katznelson, transplant nephrologist at Cal Pacific, who oversaw the swap between the Porters and Zeches and Watt. "About half of all donors cannot donate to the people they care about.

"In this one swap we saved about seven years of waiting time," said Katznelson.


Supporters say the exchanges meet medical ethical standards because no money is exchanged and because the participants are already on organ waiting lists.

I just can't wait for some enterprsing soul to hustle Venture Capital for the internet start-up called Kidney Bay...