The Complicated World of Kidney Transplants
Waiting for a kidney transplant can create a hardship that affects more than just the patient and his family: for most transplant patients, there is a veritable obstacle course to traverse before—or even if—a suitable donor is found. But the journey doesn’t end once a patient finds a match.
Complications during and after a transplant surgery can complicate recovery for kidney recipients. Patients and families facing this tough, long ordeal have several critical issues to consider while they work toward finding a donor.
Tips for Ensuring a Safe Donation
Kidney transplants have advanced significantly in the last twenty years: living donors have become increasingly common for transplants, and with anti-rejection medication becoming more effective, transplant patients can find matches more easily and have more active and fulfilling lives. However, rare and tragic issues can arise throughout the transplant process.
A recent investigation involving the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UMPC) revealed that a transplant patient received a kidney from a living donor with Hepatitis C. Because carriers of the virus don’t always exhibit symptoms, it’s possible that initial screening did not reveal the donor’s full medical history. As a result, UMPC has voluntarily suspended their transplant program. For patients still waiting for a transplant, the field of medical centers has gotten smaller: medical centers like IU Health in Indianapolis, IN, offer alternatives to patients in the Pittsburgh area.
Building Connections to Save Lives
Pioneered in Baltimore, Md., the “daisy chain” method is steadily becoming an effective way for donors and patients to find their best matches. The process begins with an altruistic donor, a person who has no motives other than helping a patient in need of a kidney transplant. If the person to whom the donor wants to give his kidney is not a good match, the prospective recipient (or her family) can choose to donate the organ to a patient who does match the original donor.
Chains like this can include several patients and donors, such as the chain of 13 patients who received transplants in 2009. In addition to being an efficient way for hard-to-match recipients to find matches, the process has proven to be successful for cutting down on the need for simultaneous operating rooms and surgeries.
Learning About the Process
The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is the non-profit organization that manages the country’s Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). The organization maintains the nation’s transplant waiting list on a 24-hour, 365-day-a-year basis, and offers education to the public about the process of donation and transplant surgeries.
For families with a transplant patient waiting for a kidney, learning about the process of donation and transplant is paramount. Medical centers who perform donation and transplant surgeries also offer education and support to patients and their families. The most important aspect of receiving a kidney is preparing the patient and his family for any and all possible outcomes, and supporting the family during their time of need.