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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Four families were brought together by four failing kidneys—and the relatives willing to risk their own health to save their loved ones.
It’s the first of its kind in Florida—a successful four-way paired kidney exchange transplant.
The surgery, which involved four donors and four recipients, took place on April 9 at the Miami Transplant Institute (MTI) at the UHealth Jackson Memorial Medical Center.
The pairs consisted of three married couples, a mother and her son. The eight people involved met for the first time Thursday at Jackson Memorial Hospital—four families brought together by failing families, and their relatives willing to give up a kidney to save their loved ones.
The Paired Kidney Exchange Program, according to Giselle Guerra, MD, medical director of the Living Donor Kidney Program, “gives them opportunity to find the best match.”
“The patients do not have to linger on a waiting list; and it lessens the amount of time a patient needs to be on dialysis because they can be transplanted at any point with a living donor,” Guerra said.
John Russell, 64, for more than a decade suffered from Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIA-s), known as “warning stroke” which is caused by a temporary decrease in blood supply to the brain. During a hospital visit in Chicago for TIA-s, his blood pressure was so high it severely damaged his kidneys. Several doctor visits later, Russell was told it was only a matter of time before his kidneys would stop working and that he would need dialysis. Eight years later, after having moved to South Florida, Russell found hope at MTI.
Russell’s wife, Patricia, was willing to donate and was found to be a match. However, the couple signed up for the program after being informed a better match could be obtained.
Patricia Russell’s kidney ended up going to Bonnie Glover.
Glover, 54, was also in-need of a kidney and her husband Craig was willing to donate a kidney.
“My primary motivations were to help her live a full, long, healthy life, that would allow her to be a part of our sons’ lives for many, many years to come,” Craig said.
Craig Glover’s generous donation, his kidney, went to 36-year-old Marilyn Huggins.
Huggins started having kidney failure in 2013. After her diagnosis, she began dialysis and was placed on the waiting list in January 2014—it was then when she found the Paired Kidney Exchange Program. She, along with her husband Randy Martinez, signed up.
“Haven’t done a lot of great things in life but I think this is one of the greatest things I ever did,” Martinez said.
Martinez’s kidney was paired with 22-year-old Taylor Kroeger.
Kroeger, 22, had already received a kidney from his father at 18-months-old. By the time he was 21, his donated kidney was failing. His mother Deanna looked for alternatives and, thanks to the program, even though she wasn’t a match there was still a solution.
Kroeger’s kidney was paired with John Russell.
“This was perfect for us since I had planned on donating anyway,” Deanna Kroeger said.
All of the kidney recipients and donors said they felt as if they were given a lease on life.
“I feel great, ready for this new phase of life,” Bonnie Glover said.
Since the Paired Kidney Exchange started, less than a year ago, they’ve been able to pair 20 kidney donor and recipients.