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Living Kidney Donors Create Four-Way Exchange

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The eight transplant donors and recipients involved in the biggest paired live-donor kidney exchange at UWMADISON - Eight patients and seven surgeons added up to one big milestone at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics.

 

Four donors and four recipients underwent surgery on July 1 at UW Hospital in the largest paired live-donor kidney exchange in the history of the UW transplant program. The two- to three-hour donor surgeries and transplants involved seven UW Health surgeons.

 

It's common for loved ones and friends to step up and offer to donate an organ for someone with advanced kidney disease. Unfortunately, in many cases they're unable to donate because their blood types don't match or the recipient's immune system has high levels of antibodies to the donor's organ.

 

When that happens, coordinators at UW Health's transplant program place the patient and the donor on a paired-donation list and begin looking for other pairs of donors and recipients that might prove a suitable match. In this case, Kathy Schappe, a UW Health transplant coordinator, was able to connect the dots. She found four matches, and the donors agreed to participate.

 

Here's how the paired donation worked:

  • Daniel Fabisiak, 43, of DeForest, received a kidney from Lois Chupp, 52, of Richland Center.
  • Dan's wife, Kelly Fabisiak, 42, in turn donated her kidney to Carl Vitale, 48, of New York.
  • Carl's brother, Marc Vitale, 43, who lives in Madison, donated a kidney to Susan Rader, 57, who lives in the upper peninsula of Michigan.
  • Susan's son, John Rader, 32, who also lives in the U.P., donated his kidney to Michael Olson, 32, of McFarland. Lois Chupp is a friend and co-worker of Michael's mother-in-law.

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Confused? The eight patients involved in the paired exchange aren't. They're just tremendously grateful to get a second chance at life while helping someone else at the same time.

 

The surgery marked the second kidney transplant for Olson, who received his first donor kidney in 2005 after his own organs began to fail from a condition called IGA nephropathy. His first donated kidney never functioned as it should, and he found himself back on the waiting list only five years later.

 

"In a situation like this, you obviously want to get the best match you possibly can," says Olson, who works as a delivery truck driver. "It's hard to express in words how grateful you are to this person who would make this choice to help you." 

 

Michael and his wife, Michelle, welcomed their first child, Greta, on August 7.

 

Carl Vitale also received his second transplant. Both Vitale and Olson underwent the UW Health desensitization protocol before their surgeries, to remove antibodies from their blood and lessen rejection.      

 

After years of managing their failing kidneys, the four recipients now live free from dialysis, and all shared their gratitude to the donors who stepped forward to make this exchange possible.

 

"I thought I'd spend the next 20 years on dialysis," said Susan Rader.

 

Due to the generosity of these four people, and others who decide to donate their kidneys, patients like Rader can return to an active lifestyle.

 

UW Health's transplant program continues to look for paired matches. 

           

"The fact that we did this procedure indicates that there are many for whom it's difficult to find a suitable kidney," says Tony D'Alessandro, MD. "Paired exchanges like this are a mechanism to help address that, and more could be done if more people considered living donation."

 

The UW Health transplant program is one of the largest in the country. In 2009, they transplanted more than 500 organs, of which more than 300 were kidneys. Patients who received kidney transplants at UW Hospital enjoyed a 95 percent one-year survival rate.