Three Receive new Organs in Kidney Swap at Piedmont Hospital
When it comes to her family, 55-year-old Mary Harris would do just about anything to keep her loved ones safe, healthy and happy. So when her daughter-in-law Katie was diagnosed with a kidney disease that required a transplant, Mary decided she could help.
“Once Katie and Jason got married, she became family,” said Mary. “I actually never thought of [donating a kidney] prior to this because you always think it has to be a blood relation - but once we went through the process, it was determined I was the best candidate.”
With that, doctors proceeded with preparations for Mary to donate her kidney to her daughter-in-law. Just two days before surgery, the final round of tests revealed that Katie had developed an antibody to an antigen Mary had, making it impossible for her to be Katie’s donor after all.
It was at that point, physicians at Piedmont Hospital’s Transplant Clinic told Mary and Katie about paired donation, in which Mary’s kidney could be used to help another patient and Katie would receive another donor’s kidney in return. Usually, a paired donation transplant occurs when two donor/recipient pairs exchange kidneys because they cannot donate their kidney to their loved ones. As it turned out, it would take the participation of three donors and three recipients to get Katie the kidney she needed.
“It just happened that we all kind of matched and Piedmont worked really fast,” said Katie. “I knew within a couple of days about the paired donation - a month later, I’m here!”
On March 30, Mary gave her kidney to someone she never met: Vicki Deeson, who suffered from a genetically-inherited condition called polycystic kidney disease. Like Mary, Vicki’s brother-in-law George Reeves had volunteered to donate his kidney but wasn’t a match.
“I didn’t know if I was going to get a kidney at all,” said Vicki, who is from Hawkinsville, Ga.
But once they learned about paired donation and George also agreed to donate his kidney to a stranger, Vicki learned she’d be getting someone’s kidney after all.
“If you get educated, you will see you don’t need two kidneys to function,” said George. “You will live a long and successful life with one, and you’re keeping somebody alive by giving one.”
The life George saved was none other than Nikki Garrison Smith, whose mother Judy McDaniel would complete the circle by giving her kidney to Katie Harris.
“I think it is a wonderful program,” said Judy. “Without the paired exchange, Nikki could have had to wait seven or eight years for a deceased donor. That’s a long time for someone on dialysis.”
And as time is often of the essence when it comes to transplants, the shorter wait times that paired donations offer patients not only improve patients’ quality of life but bring relief and joy to the families involved as well. Currently, Piedmont Hospital's patients have some of the shortest wait times for kidney transplants in the state.
“Paired donation is kind of surreal,” said Katie. “I guess now we’re not just saving one life, we’re saving three because three people are doing a selfless act.”
Amanda Bartlett is the Media/PR Coordinator for Piedmont Healthcare.