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Paired Kidney Donation: November 29, 2013

A successful kidney donation requires a closer match than of the other organs. It poses greater difficulty for family members or friends who want to donate to a loved one, but aren’t compatible.

“So they’re very excited about this new option we’re able to offer to them,” says Barbara Miller, director of kidney transplant with Lee Memorial Health System.

Called paired donation, it is an orchestrated kidney swap. A living donor who is an incompatible match with the recipient agrees to exchange a kidney to a well-matched stranger in a similar situation. In turn, their loved one gets paired with a compatible organ.

“If we have a potential recipient here for whom the donor is not a good match, that donor is able to donate to another recipient in another center. And we have a donor in another center able to donate to our recipient here in Fort Myers,” says Miller.

In the neighborhood of 88-thousand people in this country are waiting a new kidney- for years their only hope came from a deceased donor. Their chances improved with the introduction of living donors- the paired exchange is another step forward. And it’s now being implemented at Gulf Coast Medical Center.

“Both the recipient and the donor has to agree to participate in the program. We do register them in a data bank and right now the region covers all of Florida, Georgia and we are hoping to add Alabama soon,” says Miller.

“That’s really a unique service where the patient’s kidney matches up exactly. And something we’re doing now,” says Josh DeTillio, chief administrative officer at Gulf Coast Medical Center.

Paired donation is opening up new windows of opportunity for people with great need and few options.