Health Team

Duke pilot program hopes to cut down wait time for transplants

Posted February 13, 2015

— A person in need of a kidney can face a wait of about five years, but doctors with the Kidney Paired Donation Pilot Program at Duke hope to cut down the wait time.

LaDonna Hernandez, 47, entered Duke's program to help someone in need. In November, her kidney went to 45-year-old Brent Pope of Kenly.

Doctors say the program is a transplant option for patients with an incompatible living donor.

"They ain't made the word to tell you how grateful I am," Pope said.

As Pope received Hernandez' kidney, his best friend, 35-year-old Ronald Renfrow, was in surgery helping David Whiteford, 47, of Raleigh, get a healthy kidney.

"The good Lord spoke to me and I finally found out what it was like to give unselfishly, to not expect nothing in return," Whiteford said.

Transplant surgeon Dr. Bradley Collins performed the kidney swap surgeries between Hernandez and Pope.

"Patients with kidney failure wait a long time for transplants," Collins said. "When you can give them a living donor kidney, that is pretty cool."

About 3,000 kidney transplants have been performed at Duke in the last 50 years, doctors said. Roughly two-thirds came from deceased donors and the others from living donors.

Dr. Matthew Ellis is the director of the transplant program. He says living donor kidneys work better and last longer.

"Living donation is by far the best type of kidney transplant," Ellis said. "We experience fewer complications."

Doctors recommend anyone interested in learning more to visit the Duke’s kidney transplant program's website .





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  • Sigrid Fry-Revere Feb 14, 2015
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    Between 1/3 and 1/2 of all organ donors are living organ donors. That's 98% of people on the organ donor waiting list and everyone who need bone marrow as well (they can only be helped by living donors). They are the unsung heroes of the transplant story. Unfortunately, they often are left with non-medical out-of-pocket expenses that can weigh heavily on them financially.

    A new charity -- The American Living Organ Donor Fund is here to help. Please help us spread the word to transplant center organ donor coordinators and potential living organ donors that the ALODF has a website chalked full of information and that we give grants to living organ donors to help them meet their expenses. We do have limited resources, but we do not have an automatic income cut off. We base our grants on verifiable need.

    See our website at www.ALODF

    We also have a support group just for living organ donors and those considering donation.