Longest Kidney Chain Ever Completed Wraps up at UW Hospital and Clinics

Madison, Wisconsin - After living with kidney disease for nearly 30 years, 77-year-old Mitzi Neyens of Wausau, WI, thought her luck had finally run out.


Her disease had been manageable for most of that time, but early last year her kidney function precipitously declined and she learned that she was too old to be added to the waiting list for a kidney from a deceased donor.


Facing dialysis and an uncertain future, Neyens and a family friend (a willing but incompatible donor) decided to enroll in the National Kidney Registry at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics.


On March 26, Neyens not only received a new kidney, but she also made history as the final link in the longest kidney-transplant chain ever completed. The chain ended nearly three months after the first recipient in the chain, Peggy Hansmann of Plymouth, Wisconsin, received her new kidney at UW Hospital from a humanitarian donor from Minneapolis.


In total, the chain included 68 people (34 donors and 34 recipients) at 26 hospitals nationwide. UW Hospital had a total of five participants in the chain.


In a paired transplant chain, a humanitarian donor sets off a series of transplants in which family or friends of recipients give a kidney to another person in need — essentially paying donations forward on behalf of a loved one. Because these chains can include many participants, they can be especially helpful to individuals who are highly sensitized (high antibody levels) and as a result cannot find a good donor match. Sixteen of the 35 recipients in this chain were highly sensitized, including Neyens.


"It's probably fair to say that Mitzi would never have found a compatible donor had she not joined the NKR program," said Karen Miller, paired kidney exchange coordinator for UW Hospital. "It's also very possible that those other 15 highly sensitized individuals would have waited many more years for a transplant, and a few would not have survived the wait. For those hard-to-match patients in particular, paired kidney exchanges have been nothing short of miraculous."


UW Hospital has been participating in the National Kidney Registry's paired kidney exchange program since 2011 and has since helped 70 people get transplants through the program. Only four other transplant centers in the U.S. have helped more people get transplants through NKR's program.




Learn more about UW Health Transplant's part in the country's longest multihospital kidney transplant chain. (Video produced by ABC News)


Date Published: 04/14/2015

News tag(s):  transplant

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