Ten donation and transplant surgical procedures took place at Mercy Medical Center – Des Moines on January 7-9, 2013. This is the largest kidney paired donation chain in the state of Iowa to date. It is unique in that all recipients and donors had their surgeries in the same hospital.
Mercy transplant surgeons Cass Franklin, M.D., FACS and Johan Aerts, D.O. performed the surgeries. Five unrelated living donors provided a kidney for transplantation to four Iowans and a patient from Omaha, Nebraska. A humanitarian donor stepped forward to donate a kidney and from there the Mercy Transplant Center team matched donors who are found not to be compatible with their intended recipient, but a match with another recipient. This matching is usually done through the use of computer software; the Mercy team managed to piece the chain together using only patients’ charts. The pairings formed what’s called a kidney paired donation chain, allowing for multiple transplants, and hope, for people on organ transplant waiting lists.
The members of the chain ranged in age and background. The donor and recipient pairings remained completely anonymous leading up to and through the procedure. After the procedures were complete, all ten patients (five donors and five recipients) agreed to meet.
“New year; New hope; New life;” said Mercy Transplant Center Medical Director Dr. Cass Franklin, when asked about the procedures. “Five lives saved through one noble endeavor.” Fellow transplant surgeon Johan Aerts also sees great promise. “If I look excited it’s because it is exciting,” said Dr. Aerts. “The anticipation leading up to this moment that took months of work – I couldn’t have asked for a smoother course or a more excellent outcome.”
In Iowa, 532 people are waiting for a kidney transplant. Kidney paired donation chains could help lower the wait time. Donors who took part in this first-of-its kind event in Iowa urged others to consider organ donation as a way to make a difference and change lives. To learn more about becoming a donor, or to register, simply visit www.iowadonornetwork.org and click on ‘Sign up to become a donor.’
Mercy Transplant Center has served Iowans for twenty-five years. Dr. Franklin performed the first kidney transplant on Dec. 1, 1986. The program has received recognition for its quality of care. In Oct. 2012, Mercy received Iowa’s only Medal of Honor Award at the Gold Medal level for transplantation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Mercy is one of only 22 hospitals across the country selected to receive this award.