Health Team

Kidney transplant procedures make history at Duke

Posted December 5, 2011
Updated December 7, 2011

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— Four patients and their doctors at Duke University Hospital were making history Monday, completing one of the first multiple-patient kidney exchanges at a North Carolina hospital and the first such procedure in the Triangle. 

Paired kidney transplants aren't new, but Monday's procedures represent a growing trend that could help more people receive the kidneys they need faster. 

Sue Gommer, kidney transplant recipient Two transplants, four lives changed at Duke

For 67-year-old Sue Gommer, who will be receiving a kidney from “altruistic” donor Brad Dean, Monday’s historic surgery will also change her life. Dean has no family connection to Grommer.

She won’t need dialysis anymore and will be able to have normal kidney function for the first time in years.

Gommer’s daughter, 39-year-old Jennifer Gommer, will go under the knife as well, donating her kidney to Jeffrey Rogers, a Robeson County man who also needs a replacement.

“We, in effect, do two living-donor transplants that otherwise would not have happened,” Dr. Matthew Ellis, a nephrologist at Duke, said.

When a kidney is donated from a deceased donor, it’s stored on ice and flown in from another part of the country. At any given time, as many as 90,000 people can find themselves on wait lists to receive those kidneys. The wait takes five to seven years.

Monday's procedures allow Gommer and Rogers to bypass that long wait.

Living-donor transplants are also good for doctors, who try to avoid using deceased-donor kidneys whenever possible to increase the probability of a successful match.

“Avoiding that gives a lot of advantages to the longevity of the kidney,” Dr. Kadiyala Ravindra, a surgeon at Duke, said. “These kidneys last longer because of that.”

Living-donor transplants also decrease competition for deceased-donor kidneys.

If things go well for Sue Gommer and Rogers Monday, they could be going home within a week. Jennifer Gommer and Brad Dean could be home in the next two days.


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  • Here2tellya Dec 7, 2011


  • tbird Dec 6, 2011

    Four years ago my 22 year old son received a kidney from his dad. He is so healthy now and living his life. My husband is training to run in his first marathon. My sons illness affected our whole family and so has recovery. We had our surgeries done at Duke and my husband came home the next day. 4 days later my son came home. We are all grateful for the talented doctors that continue to see my son every 4 months or so for check ups.

  • EverythingTicksMeOff Dec 6, 2011

    americaneel, if you heard it, then you should be able to go to eBay and search on kidneys and find someone selling a kidney. You won't find it because eBay won't let you sell body parts. They wouldn't even let a baseball player sell his chewing gum for charity because it contained his saliva.

    jenjen, you are so right. What is historic about this? Silly article really, WRAL. Live donors have been doing their thing for decades.

  • westernwake1 Dec 5, 2011

    This is a very impressive medical story!

  • Uhavenoclu Dec 5, 2011

    Thank you Brad and to all donors....this is the only donation that you see actually works and you don't have to race year after year and don;t see results.
    If you feel your life won't amount to anything then be a donor for donating an organ does alot more and is alot more successful then any bank account house,car,can ever do.
    Thanks to all and keep up the good work to the surgeons.

  • htomc42 Dec 5, 2011

    >If paid, a donor is more likely to withhold info that may disqualify them.

    That is what testing is for. There is one specific product- blood plasma, that is in fact paid for. I've never once heard of a plasma shortage, and apparently the medical safeguards are good enough for that.

    >Plus there is the risk of taking advantage of poor people.

    If the end result is that someone ends up living- perhaps even another such poor person, then isn't that a risk worth taking?

  • ThePhwner Dec 5, 2011

    Just remember that above all else, these procedures save lives. I have an aunt who would not be alive today had she not received a kidney from my other aunt. 5 to 7 years is a long wait when your kidneys are shot.

  • ezLikeSundayMorning Dec 5, 2011

    I assume the daughter being willing to donate to a stranger was what allowed her mother to get a kidney from the unrelated donor. The daughter was willing to give her mother a kidney but it didn't match, so a deal was made for her to give a kidney in exchange for her mother getting one.

    I'm okay with payments, but I can see the other side too. If paid, a donor is more likely to withhold info that may disqualify them. Plus there is the risk of taking advantage of poor people.

  • SueInNC Dec 5, 2011

    That's amazing. The progress in medicine is astounding!

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Dec 5, 2011

    I'm confused. So the Elderly lady is receiving a piece of kidney from a stranger? And the elderly lady's daughter is donating a piece of kidney to a different stranger? Why did this have to be a double transplant? I'm very confused. The two transplants seem totally separate from each other.