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Offline Karol

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Woman Saves Lives Through Kidney Donation Chain
« on: April 30, 2011, 11:25:07 PM »
Woman Saves Lives Through Kidney Donation Chain

Originally published 09:16 p.m., April 29, 2011
Updated 09:16 p.m., April 29, 2011

Brandie Pabustan was just a few days away from donating one of her kidneys to her husband, Conrad, when doctors called off the surgery.

Brandie’s blood type made her a good match for Conrad and her great health made her an ideal candidate to be a donor.

But it came as an unwelcome surprise when doctors told them during their final blood test that Conrad’s disease-fighting antibodies had started attacking Brandie’s blood, making it all but impossible to move forward with the operation.

“We walked out of there thinking, ‘Great we’re back at square one,’” said Brandie, 35, of Newbury Park.

Brandie then learned about the Kidney Exchange Program at the UCLA Medical Center that would still allow her to help someone and find her husband a new kidney.

The relatively new program searches through the National Kidney Registry, which is the largest registry of its kind in the country, to find matches for the recipient and the donor. A donor is given a match by a recipient who has a friend or family member willing to donate on the patient’s behalf. This process creates a life-saving chain of donors and medically compatible kidney recipients.

The Kidney Exchange program was created in Ohio by Michael Rees, a professor at the University of Toledo. UCLA began its program in 2007 and, to date, has completed about 50 exchanges. Dr. Jeffery Veale, the program’s director, was the first doctor to perform these kidney chains in the west.

“One-third of people are in Brandie and Conrad’s situation, where they have someone willing to donate a kidney, but they’re incompatible.” says Veale. “The great potential of this program is that we’re able to reduce the people on the [deceased donor] waiting list and expand the living donor pool by 33 percent.”

Before Conrad, now 35, received his kidney, he was on a costly and draining process called dialysis that replicates the functions of a healthy kidney. He also was waiting on the “deceased donor list” where kidneys are harvested from cadavers, and the average wait time is eight to 10 years, depending on the donor’s blood type.

“It’s tiring after a while. Your entire life is basically on hold. In order to travel you have to schedule something months in advance at a dialysis center,” said Brandie, who recently experienced the pitfalls of traveling with someone on dialysis. Late last year, she and Conrad had their wedding in Vegas and had to schedule the entire event around his treatments.

Brandie knew that the dialysis was taking a toll on her husband, especially on days before his treatment. She’d find him tired and not feeling like himself. She knew he needed a transplant as soon as possible and ignored his requests to drop the idea. He was worried about her health and she wanted him to get healthy.

“My main concern was if I’d be able to get pregnant. Doctor’s said, ‘No Problem.’” she said. “Then I asked, ‘What if I get cancer?’ and they again said, ‘No problem. Just be healthy, don’t get crazy, don’t eat badly, and don’t play any contact sports’ – which I don’t do anyways.”

With minimal risks involved and a healthy pregnancy still possible, Brandie and Conrad enrolled in the exchange program and began a series of physical, medical and psychiatric tests to evaluate her overall health.

“You have to be extremely healthy. They run a battery of tests on you.” she said. “Regardless of the outcome, I was going to help him.”

Before long she received a call from the medical center about a match for Conrad and a recipient. Brandie’s kidney recipient, only known by her first name, Heidi, is a retired English university professor who received dialysis at the UCLA center and enrolled in the program with her neighbor, who donated on her behalf.

In December 2010, Brandie prepared for her surgery while Conrad was at UCLA undergoing his kidney transplant. His new organ was coming from a man named Albert Scholemer of Pittsburg, PA, who wasn’t donating on anyone’s behalf and simply wanted to save another person’s life.

Two days before, Brandie had started a liquid diet and now, with only hours before her surgery, drank two bottles of citrate magnesium, a saline laxative, to completely clean out her system.

The day of surgery she checked into the medical center and received a laparoscopic surgery that requires several small incisions to allow for a shorter hospital stay and recovery period. For most patients, their hospital stay is 24 to 48 hours, with a recovery period of six to eight weeks. This wasn’t the case for Brandie.

After the anesthesia began to wear off, she felt a throbbing pain from the left side of her back through the lower half of her abdomen and had to be placed on an I.V.

“They didn’t want to put me on an I.V. so that I could go home the next day, but my stomach was empty and I couldn’t take down any of the Vicodin they gave me,” she recalled. “I was throwing it all up.”

Her stay at the hospital was about five days and her recovery period took about seven to eight weeks. Heidi and her neighbor visited Brandie when she was in the hospital and thanked her for donating her kidney. Heidi’s neighbor continued the donor chain by giving one of her kidneys to a recipient on the east coast.

While live donations are a more efficient and safer way to help a person with kidney disease, the average kidney lasts 18 years because there are no “perfect matches,” unless patients have a healthy identical twin willing to donate. When asked how he feels about the chance of another transplant, Conrad simply replied, “This was my second surgery – I’m used to it.”

Brandie hopes that the program and her story will encourage others going through similar situations to participate in live donations so people with kidney disease can experience a longer and more fulfilling life.

“You can miss out on so much,” Brandie said. “Just having a normal life – being able to eat, drink, or do whatever you want.”

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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