S.F. hospital to perform rare 6-way kidney transplant
Zully Broussard was set to donate a kidney to a friend. The prep work, however, didn’t go as fast as the doctors needed, and her friend had to turn to another donor.
That was a long time ago. On Thursday, with her friend in mind, the 55-year-old Sacramento-area woman is scheduled to donate yet again, at the Pacific Campus of California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco — this time to someone she doesn’t know, a Benicia man in dire need of a kidney.
And Broussard’s altruistic gift won’t stop giving there.
The recipient’s sister-in-law, who couldn’t provide a compatible kidney to her brother-in-law, is giving her kidney to a woman from Fresno, whose son couldn’t provide her with a compatible kidney so he’s giving his to a woman from Greenbrae, and on it goes until six strangers have new hope for a healthy life with transplanted kidneys.
The six-way transplant, which will occur over two days, is believed to be the largest to take place at a single hospital on the West Coast.
More about these wonderful life-saving transplants and watch the video here.
“I didn’t realize it was going to be this big,” said Broussard, who simply wanted to help out one person after her previous effort to donate fell through.
“I’ve been given a lot in my life, but I’ve also had a lot of loss,” she said, noting that her son died of cancer 13 years ago, and her husband passed away 14 months ago, also from cancer. “I know what it feels like to want an extra day.”
Domino-like kidney swaps, while a relatively new thing, are becoming increasingly common. They usually involve patients who have a friend or family member who is willing to donate but isn’t compatible. Hospital teams then pair the willing donor with a compatible recipient who similarly had a loved one who wasn’t compatible and is willing to give to someone else. The process continues.
Several hospitals have performed paired donations. Some have participated in one that extends across several sites — or even across several states, where sometimes dozens of people get new organs. Few hospitals, though, have carried out six back-to-back transplants in one place. Doctors at California Pacific Medical Center said they hadn’t heard of another set of such transplants involving more people.
Doing the transplants consecutively, like the series in San Francisco, rather than waiting reduces the risk of a donor or recipient developing a medical condition that would disqualify them, or of one of the participants backing out, hospital officials say.
Rustling up equipment
The doctors, who successfully performed a five-way transplant four years ago, said they had trouble mustering enough surgical instruments for this one.
Three transplants are scheduled for Thursday and three on Friday at the Pacific Heights hospital, involving a team of anesthesiologists, physician assistants and nurses led by five surgeons, with an additional 40 people lending support. Each transplant procedure is expected to take three hours.
“This is huge,” said Steven Katznelson, medical director of the hospital’s Kidney Transplant Program. “In many cases, it’s a life-saving procedure.”
More than 100,000 people in the U.S. are awaiting kidney transplants. Most on the waiting list need the transplant within three to five years. Many have died waiting. In 2013, the most recent data available showed that fewer than 17,000 kidney transplants were performed in the U.S.
Kidney failure occurs when the organ is unable to filter wastes and excess fluid from the blood, allowing dangerous levels of these materials to build up. When the condition progresses to a certain point, dialysis or a kidney transplant is vital.
One in 10 American adults suffers kidney disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The names of the participants in this week’s surgery, besides the initial donor’s, are being withheld by the hospital until the effort is finished.
Most are from the Bay Area, and two are from the Central Valley. The donors and recipients include three parent-and-child pairs, one sibling pair, and one brother- and sister-in-law pair.
The donors and recipients were paired with software called Matchgrid, which uses algorithms to sort through the medical data of thousands of people to find the best matches.
California Pacific Medical Center, an affiliate of Sutter Health Care, conducts more than 200 kidney transplants per year. The hospital holds a high rate of success, with officials saying 98.4 percent of kidney patients survive for at least one year after the transplant.
Kurtis Alexander is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @kurtisalexander
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