Desensitization Makes Transplant Possible

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Chad Stockinger and wifeMADISON - Chad Stockinger (pictured, with wife Kristin) knew he wouldn't be the first person to receive a kidney transplant. In fact, he had already received a kidney in 1996, donated by his father.
When that kidney failed, Chad had to resume dialysis treatments three times a week. He needed another kidney transplant. What Chad didn't know was that over time his system had developed antibodies that would make his body reject a new kidney.
"I wasn't yet sick enough to move to the top of the waiting list," says Stockinger. "Plus I had organ-rejecting antibodies and rare Type B blood. I knew I would have a long wait on the deceased-donor waiting list."
Enter the UW Health Desensitization Program and Chad’s wife, Kristin Calhoun-Stockinger.
"When I learned we had different blood types, we thought that I couldn't donate to Chad," says Kristin. "But then we heard about this new process the UW was testing, and we immediately called to learn more."
Desensitization is a process that removes the rejection-causing antibodies from the blood. In a process called plasmapheresis, Chad's plasma was exchanged for donor plasma, which removed the harmful antibodies and allowed him to accept an organ of a different blood type. He also took medications to prevent the antibodies from returning.
"Weeks of treatments greatly reduced Chad's antibody levels," notes Milagros Samaniego-Picota, MD, the UW Health transplant physician who managed Chad's desensitization process. "That made him a good candidate."
A Unique Program
Chad was the first patient in the UW Health Transplant Program to overcome the combination of rejection-causing antibodies and blood-type incompatibility. Nineteen other patients have completed desensitization, but no other patients had both blood type and antibody issues to overcome.
The UW Health program is one of only five in the nation performing this procedure. More than six months have passed since the Stockingers' surgeries, and both are doing well. Newspaper and TV stations from around the world covered the Stockingers' transplant success story, and although they've become local celebrities, they've chosen to use the limelight to share the message of organ donation.
"There are more than 95,000 people on the waiting list for organ transplants," says Kristin. "Sign your driver's license and tell your family you want to be an organ donor. I gave Chad one of my kidneys, and when I die, someone else will get the other one."
For more information about the UW Health Transplant program, call (608) 263-1424.

Date Published: 07/26/2007

News tag(s):  transplant

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