Adventures of a Kidney Donor

April 19, 2010

What is Paired Kidney Donation?


I am finding that a lot of people don’t know what paired kidney donation is, even the nurses at the cardiologist’s office hadn’t heard of it. So basically it works like this:

I am blood type A and Jackie is blood type B. I can’t give a kidney directly to her because we are different blood types. So the transplant team will organize four people. They will find a person who needs a kidney who has blood type A and a person who wants to be a kidney donor who has blood type B. All four of us will have surgery at U of M hospital. My kidney will go the person with blood type A.  Jackie will receive a kidney from the person with the B blood type. Sometimes the four surgeries are simultaneous but with paired donation one pair sometimes goes first. In our case since this is “Lets Make a Deal with Kidneys” U of M won’t take my kidney unless Jackie has already received hers or has her surgery the same day as me.

I think this is a very special process because it allows the donor to help their loved one indirectly and someone else directly. In a way it doubles the gift.


Paired kidney donation was pioneered by the Johns Hopkins Transplant Center.  The first pair exchange transplant in the U.S. was in 2001. The Paired Donation Network began as a state-wide paired donation consortium in Ohio.  The PDN now includes over 80 kidney transplant programs in 23 states. New programs enter the PDN weekly, increasing access for patients to paired donation programs across the United States.

Paired donation used to take place in one hospital on one day but has now advanced. In 2009 Johns Hopkins and several other hospitals successfully completed the first eight-way, multihospital, domino kidney transplant. The transplant involved eight donors, 3 men and 5 women along with eight organ recipients, 3 men and 5 women.


Paired kidney donation is now taking place all over the United States, at times with chains of donors and recipients across different hospitals. Breakthroughs are even being made in organ transplantation involving people who have different blood types. This is an exciting chapter in kidney transplant history. Now if only more people would donate!


Go to List of Resources on Kidney Donation

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