San Francisco Hospital Performs Rare 12-People Kidney Swap

By @vitthernandez on
Members of a surgical team implant a donated harvested kidney to transplant into patient Adam Abernathy as part of a five-way organ transplant swap in New York, August 1, 2012. Reuters


The California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco started on Thursday a rare series of kidney swaps involving 12 people or six pairs. Three pairs are scheduled on Thursday and three more on Friday.

It is the largest kidney donation chain in the 44 years of the hospital’s history, said Dean Fryer, hospital spokesman. The first surgery started at 7:30 a.m. By 12:45 p.m., the surgery to transfer the third kidney started, reports SFGate.

The recipients have the software matching program developed by 59-year-old David Jacobs, which links strangers, to thank for. Its algorithm finds potential matches using a person’s genetic profile. Jacobs developed the program since he was a kidney recipient, while his brother died of kidney failure; hence, he understands how frustrating it could be for patients while waiting for a matching donor.

“Some of these people might have waited forever and never got the kidney. But because of the magic of this technology and the one altruistic donor, she was able to save six lives in 24 hours,” quotes Jacobs.

He suffered from kidney failure in early 2000 due to a genetic ailment and had a transplant in 2003 through a living unrelated donor.

After the successful surgery, he talked to his doctor about kidney-paired donation. While the nephrologist was excited about the idea, he didn’t know how to do it, but Jacobs is a techie so he developed an enterprise software which took six years to complete.

Among the six people who volunteered to donate a kidney for the ongoing surgery marathon is Zully Broussard from Sacramento whose son died 13 years ago of cancer and whose husband also died of cancer 14 months ago, so she knows what it feels for a sick person to want another day to live.

When she decided to donate a kidney, Broussard was unaware that it triggered a kidney swap chain that resulted in five more organ donations. Her kidney went to a man from Benicia. The identities of the 11 other people are being withheld until the surgeries are over.

With Jacob’s program and people like Broussard, the National Kidney Foundation hopes to cut the average number of 12 people dying daily while waiting for a kidney donor and the 100,000 plus people in the US on its waiting list.

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