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July 2005 Issue

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'Paired Donation' Program Offers Earlier, Safer Transplan

Published July 2005

When Paul Meyer learned his kidneys were failing and he needed dialysis to survive, he was placed on the list for a cadaver organ transplant.

Although his wife, Rose, was eager to donate a kidney, her tissue was incompatible. So like hundreds of other transplant candidates, Mr. Meyer, of Covington, Ky., faced a possible three- to four-year wait on kidney-cleansing dialysis until a cadaver kidney became available.

But thanks to a new concept in kidney donation, known as the paired donation program, the wait turned out to be much shorter than Mr. Meyer had dreamed possible.

Not only did he get a new kidney, the computer-based program was such big news he became a star nationwide on CNN television.

Developed jointly by UC's Institute for the Study of Health and Ohio's kidney transplant programs, the paired donation program was the brainchild of UC surgeon Steve Woodle, MD, transplant specialists across the state, and UC computer programmer Jonathan Kopke. A registry of potential living donors, it allows relatives or friends whose tissue doesn't match that of a loved one in need to donate an organ to someone else who's seeking their particular tissue type--in exchange for a compatible organ from the recipient's family or friends.

Jonathan Kopke's computer program matched Mr. and Mrs. Meyer with Mrs. Josephine Vollmer and her son, Dan, in Toledo.

Mrs. Vollmer needed a kidney, and Dan, whose tissue didn't match his mother's, was willing to donate one of his for an organ compatible with his mother.

Although Mrs. Meyer couldn't donate to her husband, she was a perfect match for Mrs. Vollmer. And the trade was arranged.

Dan Vollmer and Mr. Meyer met at Christ Hospital, where Dr. Woodle, and UC surgeons Rino Munda, MD, and Mark Thomas, MD, transplanted one of Dan's kidneys into Mr. Meyer--and Mrs. Meyer and Mrs. Vollmer met at the Medical College of Ohio, Toledo, where Mrs. Vollmer received Mrs. Meyer's donated organ.

Jonathan Kopke's computer program matched Mr. and Mrs. Meyer with Mrs. Josephine Vollmer and her son, Dan, in Toledo.

Mrs. Vollmer needed a kidney, and Dan, whose tissue didn't match his mother's, was willing to donate one of his for an organ compatible with his mother.

Although Mrs. Meyer couldn't donate to her husband, she was a perfect match for Mrs. Vollmer. And the trade was arranged.

Dan Vollmer and Mr. Meyer met at Christ Hospital, where Dr. Woodle, and UC surgeons Rino Munda, MD, and Mark Thomas, MD, transplanted one of Dan's kidneys into Mr. Meyer--and Mrs. Meyer and Mrs. Vollmer met at the Medical College of Ohio, Toledo, where Mrs. Vollmer received Mrs. Meyer's donated organ.

Jonathan Kopke's computer program matched Mr. and Mrs. Meyer with Mrs. Josephine Vollmer and her son, Dan, in Toledo.

Mrs. Vollmer needed a kidney, and Dan, whose tissue didn't match his mother's, was willing to donate one of his for an organ compatible with his mother.

Although Mrs. Meyer couldn't donate to her husband, she was a perfect match for Mrs. Vollmer. And the trade was arranged.

Dan Vollmer and Mr. Meyer met at Christ Hospital, where Dr. Woodle, and UC surgeons Rino Munda, MD, and Mark Thomas, MD, transplanted one of Dan's kidneys into Mr. Meyer--and Mrs. Meyer and Mrs. Vollmer met at the Medical College of Ohio, Toledo, where Mrs. Vollmer received Mrs. Meyer's donated organ.

The Meyer/Vollmer transplants were only the third paired kidney transplants performed in Ohio, but eight more matching pairs are being evaluated. Currently more than 50 patients have received kidneys via paired organ registries, with a success rate of 95 percent one year after transplantation.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, 60,000 patients are awaiting kidney transplants in the United States, a significant number of whom will die for lack of a match.


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