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A Donor and Recipient Meeting 3 Years in the Making

Posted by Lynette Wilkinson on May 1, 2017 4:22:59 PM

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Altruistic Donor and Recipient Highlight the Impact of Organ Donation

After reading about the great need for kidney donors three years ago, software designer Matt Heard decided to do something most people would consider unconventional. He chose to altruistically donate one of his kidneys. He remarked, there isn’t much difference between my having one or two kidneys, but there’s a life and death difference between having one or none.  

So, on November 7, 2013, Matt underwent the operation to have one of his kidneys removed at Methodist Dallas Medical Center. His unselfish act led to a 7-person paired donation chain. The 7th person in that chain was Priya Vengurlekar, a married mom of two and former pre-school teacher. The two had never met – until March 7 of this year.

The lucky number 7

Priya was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease in 1995 at the age of 27. The disease zapped her energy, left her with digestive problems and eventually caused her kidneys to fail. She says she managed to stay pretty active, but had good and bad days. She was placed on the kidney transplant list in 2013, and in 2015, began dialysis. The grueling schedule of being on dialysis 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, took a toll on the busy mom of two teenagers. She recalls how hard the waiting was. She prayed for a kidney every day.

And then the phone call came. Because of Matt’s unselfish act three years before, a kidney was now available for Priya. On March 9, 2016, she received her new kidney.

“Most living kidney donors give to someone they know, like a spouse, family member or close friend,” says Richard Dickerman, MD, FACS, surgical director for kidney and pancreas transplant, general surgery, and vascular surgery at Methodist Dallas who performed Priya’s transplant. “Altruistic donors who give a kidney to help a stranger are rare.”

Donor and recipient finally meet

Anticipation was high the day of Priya and Matt’s meeting on March 7. Priya and her husband Nitin waited for Matt to arrive. She could not wait to give him a huge hug, so when he walked in, that’s exactly what she did. The two shared photos. They laughed and talked about their families. Priya told Matt how his unselfish act changed her life telling him how she’s now healthy, and has goals with her new view on life.

This May, Priya and her husband plan to run a 5k, something that would not be possible without the transplant. Priya finds it incredible that Matt could come from a place in his heart to give a kidney to someone he doesn’t even know. She asked him why he did it. Matt’s answer, “We live in a society where we get so used to everything we need being available right when we need it, without thinking too hard about where it comes from. Organs don’t work that way.”

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He hopes that if someone in his life ever needed a kidney, one would be available, and it was that hope that led him to make his donation. Not everyone will contribute in the same way, but he hopes that more people will at least consider kidney donation.  He hopes more people will check the donor box on their driver’s license and let your family members know they plan to donate.

He adds that it felt good just knowing that he helped put an extra kidney in the organ donation system and says he would absolutely do it again.

There are currently over 100,000 people on the kidney transplant waiting list.

How does a paired donation chain work?

The paired donation chain begins with three people:

  • Altruistic Donor
  • Recipient 1 - a person who needs a kidney, but is incompatible with his or her volunteer donor
  • Volunteer Donor 1 - a person (usually a spouse, family member, or friend) who volunteers to donate to Recipient 1, but cannot due to incompatibility

The Altruistic Donor’s kidney goes to Recipient 1. Volunteer Donor 1 in turn donates to Recipient 2. Recipient 2’s donor (Volunteer Donor 2) donates to Recipient 3, and so on.

The chain can continue indefinitely. In each case, the recipient still receives a kidney, and the donor still donates a kidney – just not to the person originally intended.

To learn more about organ donation or transplant services at Methodist Dallas, click here.

Topics: Profiles

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