Kidney Swaps and Vouchers and Chains, Oh My!

I was delighted to hear from fellow WELD (Women Encouraging Living Donation) member, Michele Hughes, that her son Dan had just had a successful kidney transplant, at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Like me, Michele had wanted to donate her kidney to her 20-something son with kidney disease. In their case, though, it wasn’t possible. But this is 2019. So, a few months ago, Michele donated her kidney at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, North Carolina, to a stranger on Dan’s behalf. In return, they received a prized voucher through the National Kidney Registry for a compatible kidney for her son.

A picture of WELD members wearing DONOR tee shirts and holding signs that say "Donate Life." The caption tells where Michele is standing.
Michele is in the front row, third from the left (not counting our littlest WELD member). That’s me, second from the right.

NKR has a huge living-donor pool in the United States; it tries to find the best match for a potential recipient so that if the intended donor isn’t a match for them, they can do a “swap” or even form a kidney chain.

Yes, these amazing options make everything so much easier than it used to be. But anyone whose loved one has had a life-threatening condition knows how stressful and overwhelming navigating the system can be. Fortunately, Michele’s family was closely supported by a knowledgeable friend who’s a living donor himself, Ned Brooks.  I recently heard Brooks’s fascinating TED talk, “What Makes a Person Decide to Donate His Kidney to a Stranger?

In 2015 Brooks, a retired businessman, decided to donate his “spare” kidney to a stranger to set off a chain of three transplants. Like many of us, he found the living-donation experience so uplifting and life changing that he was determined to spread the word. He went so far as to found a nonprofit, Donor to Donor, to publicize the kidney crisis and to encourage and facilitate living kidney donation. In addition to sharing valuable information and donation stories, the organization matches potential kidney recipients with previous kidney donors/advocates who volunteer to help them find a donor.

Congratulations to Michele and her son. Wishing Dan a smooth recovery.

Donor to Donor will sponsor a (free) one-day Volunteer Kidney Donor Advocates Conference April 24, 2020, in New York City. Details to come.