Paired kidney donor program offers families hope

by Lisa Spellman, UNMC public relations | March 12, 2014

Image with caption: Lisa Spellman

Lisa Spellman

At first, I kept the decision to myself.

At 25, a nephew and godchild in my husband's family needed another kidney.

I just knew I would be his match.

After much prayer and discussion with my family, I filled out the paperwork and waited.

Five months later, I was asked to come in for a blood draw.

By now Jeffery's remaining kidney, donated from his mother, was removed and dialysis became his new normal. And just a few days after the blood draw, I found out we were incompatible.

World Kidney Day is Thursday: See sidebar at right

But I also found out about another program -- the PKD, or Paired Kidney Donor, program.

I could still donate by being paired with Jeffery and giving to someone else on his behalf. A chain of donors and recipients could be created, and many people could potentially receive kidneys.

It was the best news I could have received.

picture disc.
Clifford Miles, M.D.
"Living kidney transplants have better outcomes and even if you don't match your recipient you can still donate," said Clifford Miles, M.D., medical director of the kidney transplant program at The Nebraska Medical Center and assistant professor of nephrology at UNMC.

There are 100,000 people waiting for a kidney in the U.S. alone, Dr. Miles said, and only 16,000 transplants were done last year. At the medical center, there are 290 people waiting for a kidney and only 160 transplants were done in 2013.

"More people need a kidney than there are donors," Dr. Miles said.

Over the past several years, eight paired kidney transplants were done at The Nebraska Medical Center, while approximately 1,000 were done across the United States.

"That's eight people who would still be on dialysis if they didn't have someone willing to donate in a paired kidney exchange," he said.

A living donated kidney has better outcomes, Dr. Miles said. And today, through programs like the PKD, more people who want to donate can.

The best part is it still gives Jeffery and I hope.

After all, I'm as much invested in what lies ahead for Jeffery as he is.

I've known Jeffery since he was a rambunctious two-year-old. And when I look at him, I can still see that same little boy I dressed in a little white tuxedo for his mom and dad's wedding.

And I promised him when I signed the donor papers in 2012 that I would stand by him no matter what comes.


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Mike Bronson
March 13, 2014 at 1:06 PM

Lisa Thanks for the article! Does NMC participate in the Alliance for Paired Donation or the National Kidney Registry . . . or is it a network with regional hospitals? Thanks

jackie tresemer
March 12, 2014 at 11:38 AM

Be a donor!!!

March 12, 2014 at 7:18 AM

Lisa, thank you for your testimony. As the wife of a kidney transplant patient (and one unable to donate) I appreciate your courage and willingness to participate in this great program! Prayers for both you and Jeffrey and that new kidney to come.

Jessica Brummer
March 12, 2014 at 6:42 AM

Lisa - Continued prayers for you and Jeffrey. Thanks for this story and shedding light on such and important topic!