More than 96,000 Americans are on a waiting list for a kidney transplant this year.
Finding a perfect organ match—meaning both the donor and recipient have the same blood type—isn't an easy feat.
That's why so many people wait for years hoping to survive until such a match is found.
Eugene and Deborah Edwards live in Oklahoma City. While he looks healthy for a 66 year old, he wasn't nearly as optimistic about living a long life 10 years ago.
His kidneys were failing as a result of Advanced Kidney Disease, and his condition was getting progressively worse.
"I was down to less than 25 percent function. One kidney was less than 18 percent0, and he [Edwards' physician] told me it was a matter of time before I would go on dialysis and within three weeks, I was on dialysis," Eugene Edwards recalled.
Each of his children offered to donate one of their kidneys.
"I got all of my kids together and explained I would not accept a kidney from any of them—that if something happened to them, that they should be available to each other," he said.
His wife had a blood test to see if she could donate one of her kidneys.
"I found out that I was not a match for him–that I was AB positive and he was B positive so we would not match. So, then at DTI–the Dallas Transplant Institute–the coordinator said, there's another program, we have Paired Donor Exchange. And she said I'll give you some time to think about it and see if it's something you and Gene would like to do. And it took me a day, and I said 'Yes, I'll go for it,'" Deborah Edwards said.
Here's how a Paired Donor Exchange works. An incompatible donor/recipient pair like the Edwards are matched to another pair in the same situation, so the donor of the first pair gives to the recipient of the second and vice versa. In other words, the two pairs swap kidneys.
Eugene and Deborah were able to swap with another couple, but some transplant chains can involve dozens of donors and recipients all over the country.
America Now's Jeff Rivenbark traveled to Dallas to meet with Dr. Goran Klintmalm who is the Chairman and Chief of the Baylor Regional Transplant Institute, and one of the world's leading transplant surgeons. Klintmalm has also written numerous medical textbooks on the subject.
"You may actually have a chain where you may have seven pairs lined up and, thus, you take a kidney out in one place and you send it to a recipient hospital, maybe in another state, or states away, and a kidney comes in from another place not at all where you sent your kidney, but from another donation place," Klintmalm said.
Dr. Klintmalm has been involved in all eight transplant chains performed at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.
"I think this paired donation concept is actually a wonderfully exciting thing that has happened in our field in the last few years, and this is something that has already changed the face of kidney transplantation in this country," Klintmalm said.
One look at the Edwards' faces reminds you just how grateful they are for this new lease on life.
"I was happy that I was able to help someone else, and that someone was able to help us because I wanted to wake up every morning for the rest of our life and see that smile on his face again, and that's what I got," Deborah Edwards said.
The National Kidney Registry is the leader in paired exchange transplantation and has facilitated more transplant chains than any other organization in the world.
Copyright 2013 America Now. All rights reserved.
Dr. Goran Klintmalm has performed 1,120 transplant surgeries at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas. Additionally, he has been involved with all eight transplant chains that have occurred at the medical center (Source: Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.)
According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, the number of people on waiting lists for a kidney transplant as of June 4, 2013, was 96,317 (Source: http://optn.transplant.hrsa.gov/data/)
The following information is from the Donate Life New York Organ Donor Network (Source: http://www.donatelifeny.org/all-about-transplantation/organ-transplant-history/)
1954: On December 23, the first successful living-related kidney transplant led by Dr. Joseph Murray and Dr. David Hume at Brigham Hospital in Boston: A kidney was transplanted from Ronald Herrick into his identical twin, Richard.
The following data is provided by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN)/Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR)/United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). April 12, 2013. Data is subject to change.
The following information is from the National Kidney Registry (Source: http://www.kidneyregistry.org/no_recipient.php)
General Health Guidelines for Living Donation
The following are generally-accepted requirements for living kidney donation:
Conditions that may exclude a person from becoming a living donor:
The National Kidney Registry www.kidneyregistry.org is the leader in paired exchange transplantation and has facilitated more paired exchange transplants than any other organization in the world. The National Kidney Registry is a nonprofit organization with the mission to save and improve the lives of people facing kidney failure by increasing the quality, speed, and number of living donor transplants in the world.
The following information is from the Alliance for Paired Donations (Source: http://www.paireddonation.org/)
The following information is from the Davita website (Source: http://www.davita.com/kidney-disease/dialysis/the-basics/what-is-dialysis-and-when-do-i-start?/e/45)
The following information is from the Mayo Clinic (Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/multiple-myeloma/DS00415)
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