Madison, Wis. — On March 11, 2020, the day the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic, the course of Jamila Hudson’s life changed forever. Not because of any impact from the novel Coronavirus, but because of the living kidney transplant she received that day—the last transplant surgery performed at University Hospital before elective surgeries were temporarily postponed until late May.
“Given what we knew about COVID at the time, I obviously needed to weigh the risks of having a major surgery while being significantly immunocompromised with the long term-risk of waiting for another donor kidney to become available,” said Hudson, a 38-year-old Pewaukee resident and two-time kidney transplant recipient. “After speaking with my transplant coordinator and hearing about the precautions being implemented at the hospital, I felt very comfortable with moving ahead with my surgery when I did and I’m incredibly grateful that my quality of life has improved significantly as a result.”
Hudson had been on the transplant waiting list for a deceased donor kidney to become available, but she was able to receive a “chain-end” living donor match through the National Kidney Registry. Chain-end matches occur when the final kidney from a living donor kidney chain goes to somebody from the deceased donor waiting list.
In addition to encouraging patients to schedule their surgeries and other procedures, Hudson is also interested raising awareness about the need for more donors among people of color. While transplants can be successful regardless of the race or ethnicity of the donor and recipient, the chance of longer-term survival may be greater if the donor and recipient are closely matched in terms of their shared genetic background. Given the disparities in kidney failure (African Americans/Blacks represent 13.2% of the overall U.S. population and more than 35% of all patients in the U.S. receiving dialysis for kidney failure), there is great need for more living and registered organ and tissue donors.