Community of the South: Donors help stretch UAB Kidney Chain to record 51 transplants

University of Alabama | Tyler Greer

The longest living-donor kidney transplant chain to take place at one institution — or anywhere on record — reached a new milestone Aug. 6-7 with transplant Nos. 49-51 taking place in UAB Hospital. The latest transplants mean 102 total surgeries have been performed since December 2013, with 51 nephrectomies and 51 transplants completed, giving people in dire need of a working kidney a new chance at life.

UAB’s kidney chain was started Dec. 5, 2013, by the generosity of altruistic donor Paula Kok. The Pelham, Alabama, resident approached UAB about the possibility of donating a kidney to someone in need and was committed to donating despite not having an intended recipient. Her gift began a chain of transplants that involves people from 11 states — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

North Carolinian is No. 50

One of the latest of those is Jerry Phillips, a Goldsboro, North Carolina, native who was 7 years old when he first discovered blood in his urine, a frightening discovery for anyone, let alone a child.

But it wasn’t until 31 years later — years after feeling run-down and experiencing swelling in his extremities, hearing loss, high blood pressure and other issues — that doctors were able to diagnose Phillips with Alport syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the tiny tufts of capillaries in the kidneys that filter waste from the blood. The condition, which the National Institutes of Health estimates affects approximately one in 50,000 newborns, is known to cause hearing and eye problems, along with other health issues, including kidney failure. Continue reading