Doctors do history with 6-way kidney swap

February 18, 2009 2:55:03 PM PST
Doctor says more organ swaps could be done, if making matches were easier.

Surgeons at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore teamed up for a medical first --- the country's first multi-center six-way kidney transplant.

The complex swap involved nine surgeons and a team of nearly 100 people.

Kerry Cavanaugh reports on the progress of the patients and how one doctor set the whole thing up.

Desperation forged an intimate bond between the people at the table in Baltimore on Tuesday.

All were strangers, till their need for a kidney, or the desire to donate one, brought them together,

Donor Sharon Solof said, "It's nice to know that part of you is giving someone else a chance to live. It's sorta like a rebirth."

Al Finke, a recipient, was asked how it felt to meet the woman who gave him that kidney.

"Very excited about that. I almost lost it," he said.

It was no ordinary transplant. Dr. Robert Montgomery oof Johns Hopkins Hospital orchestrated the complex swap involving 12 patients at 3 hospitals - the first of its kind in America.

"And essentially what we do is mix and match and find a compatible organ for those individuals from a pool of people who have this problem. It's just like a line of dominos. If they don't all tumble, the ones that are left at the end are still standing," he told reporters.

Dr. Montgomery found 5 pairs of people, each consisting of someone in need of a kidney and a relative who wanted to donate, but wasn't compatible.

Dr. Montgomery realigned the pairs to find a match for 4 of the recipients. An altruistic stranger donated a 5th kidney, and a 6th recipient was picked off the national waiting list.

Doctors timed the operations precisely to make sure that the three kidneys that had to be flown across the country would arrive on time.

Less than a week after the Valentine's Day swap, doctors say all of the recipients are healing well. And most of the donors are out of the hospital.

Doctor Montgomery believes that if more of these multi-patient procedures are done, it could lead to an additional 15-hundred transplants every year.

The challenge is that there is currently no national database of living donors, so it's up to hospitals to do the leg work and match participants.

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