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Author Topic: Walter Reed Nat'l Military Med. Center Participates in 1st National Kidney Swap  (Read 3282 times)

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Offline Karol

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Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012
WRNMMC Participates in First National Kidney Swap
By Sharon Renee Taylor WRNMMC Journal staff writer
After 16 years in the Army and a deployment to Kuwait, Staff Sgt. Karima Banks-Thompson sat quietly on the edge of the bed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) wearing a hospital gown. The last time she was a patient, she gave birth to her fourth daughter.
Banks-Thompson was nervous this time. “Very nervous,” she said.
She was about to go under the knife for an elective surgery and, despite her nervousness, she had no hesitation. Her decision was well thought out and firm: she would donate her kidney to a stranger hundreds of miles away so her husband Ken, with End Stage Renal Disease, could receive a kidney from someone else. A few months earlier, lab tests had determined Banks-Thompson was incompatible with Ken; she couldn't give him a kidney they didn't match.
“I'm proud of my baby and that's the love of her life,” said the staff sergeant's mother, Clotilda Marquez about her daughter's sacrifice. “That's her high school sweetheart.”
Hypertension led to his kidney disease. For more than two years he spent four hours a day, three times a week hooked to a dialysis machine. Ken was hospitalized for the disease four times.
“I hated seeing him in so much pain, and it had taken a toll on us,” said Banks-Thompson.
The native-New Yorkers no longer traveled or vacationed the way they used to before he began dialysis. Ken now followed a strict diet. He spoke of financial struggles he no longer worked; his inventory job took a toll on his body. And what was life like for the couple's girls?
“It's been rough,” he said. Their oldest daughter ran away for three days. Ken spoke about the pressure on his wife and said he appreciates the sacrifices she's made. “She has no idea,” he said.

The lists, the wait, the swap
Ken registered with transplant lists in four different states. Once the couple discovered they could register to be a part of a national kidney swap and reduce his wait-time for an organ, Banks-Thompson was added to the WRNMMC list as a donor in July.
“And within three weeks we had our first offer [to join a kidney exchange],” Ken explained.
When the first chain broke, he said it was his wife who was more disappointed. He encouraged her that another opportunity was just around the corner. Three days later, the couple got the call for the Aug. 21, 2012 kidney swap.
That Tuesday, surgeons at WRNMMC readied Banks-Thompson at 5 a.m., for the first military organ transplant surgery in a national kidney exchange. In New York, surgeons at Mount Sinai Medical Center did the same for a donor there. The kidneys were removed, packed and sent by ground transport to the other hospital. Somewhere along the 230-mile trip, the two kidneys passed each other along Interstate 95: one bound for Ken awaiting transplant at Walter Reed Bethesda, the other, for a patient-recipient at Mount Sinai.
Surgeons at Mount Sinai operated on a second donor the same day, with this kidney headed for a transplant patient at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Surgeons at Rush removed a kidney from the donor there and sent the organ by plane for a patient awaiting transplant at Ronald Reagan UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) Medical Center. The following day, surgeons removed a kidney from a donor at UCLA bound for a patient-recipient at New York-Presbyterian/ Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City. Seven more surgeries over the following week in San Antonio, Philadelphia and another at Cornell followed the carefully orchestrated chain of 20 interconnected surgeries that began Aug. 7 in California and ended Aug. 30 in Philadelphia. The kidney exchange linked the nation's largest military medical center with eight civilian hospitals across six states, and provided 10 transplant patients each with a new kidney and a new lease on life.
“The significance for this round is two-fold: a first for military heath-care participation on the national level, and for the National Kidney Registry (NKR). It is their first exchange with a military hospital,” explained Col. Edward Falta, chief, Army-Navy organ transplant service. Prior to the Aug. 21 operations, military medicine had participated in only regional kidney swaps with hospitals in the local Washington, D.C. metropolitan area: the first in 2010 and a second swap in 2011.
Collaborating with the NKR and civilian hospitals in national kidney swaps means greater chance for military transplant patients to find an organ match, and reduces their time on a transplant list. According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, more than 90,000 patients in the U.S. wait on a kidney transplant list. For patients with donors willing to participate in kidney swaps like the August exchange at WRNMMC, the wait time decreases.
“Every donor-recipient pair [who] enters our program adds diversity to our pool. This creates more potential matches for kidney swaps that not only help Walter Reed's patients but other patients waiting in the pool, too,” explained Joe Sinacore, director of research and education for the National Kidney Registry. “One pair's donor could be the next miracle match that unlocks a cascade of matches for many more pairs.”
Sinacore said NKR averages a six-month wait for 70 percent of the people they transplant. For those still waiting in the NKR pool, the average is around one year, he said.
According to Falta, Ken's transplant surgeon, both Banks-Thompson and her husband are doing well. Ken did not have to continue dialysis after the kidney transplant, as many patients often do until their new organ begins to fully function. Ken said he looks forward to celebrating both his Nov. 26 birthday along with the day of what he calls his “rebirth” Aug. 21, the day he received his new kidney.
“I would've done this for anybody, it just so happens that it was my husband and it was no second thought. I just hope that people would think like it could be someone in their family it could be anyone,” said Banks-Thompson, who shares her experience with as many people as possible to increase awareness of the need and their opportunity to help. The Soldier encourages others not be afraid to donate an organ.
“This has changed our lives,” she said.
If you're a beneficiary or an individual who would like to donate an organ to a military beneficiary, call Vilda Desgoutte, at 301-319-2841 or email armynavytransplant med.navy.mil for more information.

Daughter Jenna is 31 years old and was on dialysis.
7/17 She received a kidney from a living donor.
Please email us: kidney4jenna@gmail.com
Facebook for Jenna: https://www.facebook.com/WantedKidneyDonor
~ We are forever grateful to her 1st donor Patrice, who gave her 7 years of health and freedom


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