Johns Hopkins researchers say a program they developed that uses personal advocates and community networks to find organ donors for friends and loved ones who need kidney transplants resulted in success for nearly half of the participants in its trial run.
Previous research had shown that 25 percent of people surveyed would be willing to donate a kidney if they personally knew someone who might die without one. But studies also found that transplant candidates are reluctant to talk publicly about their illnesses and the hardships associated with the kidney dialysis that keeps them alive as they wait from three to 10 years for an organ.
To address the disconnect, the Johns Hopkins researchers created a program that has transplant candidates designate an advocate, someone besides themselves to tell members of their family, office or place of worship about their plight and to spread the word about becoming a living kidney donor.
The 15 transplant candidates in the researchers’ initial study all chose a “Live Donor Champion,” usually a friend or a relative, who shared each patient’s story. Of the 15 who participated, four have already received a kidney this way, and three more have identified promising donors who are undergoing medical evaluation in order to donate. Meanwhile, the transplant team says it has fielded “serious inquiries” from 25 people interested in donating and who said they learned about the option directly or indirectly from one of the champions. Details of the study are published online in the journal Transplantation.
“Before this effort, there was no live donor in sight for these patients. Being part of this program made it happen,” says study leader Dorry L. Segev, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Approaching and recruiting live donors is a daunting and overwhelming experience for a transplant candidate, and this program takes away that burden from the patients.”
Segev’s team matched each of the 15 patients who chose a champion with 15 patients without champions. All 30 were also on a waiting list for a kidney from a deceased donor.
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