Transplant chains let strangers give kidney patients new life


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Jeff West, his kidneys failing, was dreading having to quit his job and spend years tethered to a dialysis machine. But shortly before treatments even began, the Boynton Beach man received an unexpected gift — a kidney donated by a volunteer whom he had never met.

It happened through what’s called a transplant chain: a set of surgeries, stacked like dominoes, that depend on people willing to literally give a part of themselves to someone they don’t know.

A growing trend in kidney donation, the coordinators of transplant chains say they aim to get kidneys to more renal patients, and do it faster. They also say they can sometimes make better medical matches than through traditional one-on-one donations between friends or relatives.

They do it by signing up hundreds of renal patients and their loved ones who are willing to donate to them but are incompatible due to blood type or other issues. These programs then use sophisticated computer software to generate new donor-recipient pairs between strangers.

It’s sort of like medical speed-dating. The bigger the dating pool, the better the chances for a great match. And chains involve live kidneys that have a much longer potential life span than a deceased donation. Continue reading
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