UK HealthCare performs longest kidney donor chain to date; most donors and recipients meet each other for first time

The University of Kentucky hospital recently performed its first kidney donor chain, and six of the eight patients who took part in it met their respective recipients or donors for the first time at a news conference Sept. 23.

UK HealthCare has been performing kidney transplants since 1964, but this is really a milestone for us and for the Commonwealth,” Dr. Roberto Gedaly, chief of abdominal transplant surgery, said in a UK news release. “We’re thrilled to come together today to celebrate our first successful kidney donor chain with donors, recipients, and many of the staff who made this complicated series of procedures possible.”

“Kidney donor chains, also called kidney paired exchanges, occur when a living kidney donor is incompatible with their intended recipient. The donor (then) may agree to donate their kidney to a different patient, provided that their loved one receives a kidney from someone else. When multiple pairs are involved, this causes a domino effect, with each recipient receiving a matched kidney from a stranger,” writes UKNow.

UK HealthCare performed the 8-person chain in-house over the course of two days. The chain was initiated by one altruistic donor, who was willing to give her kidney to anyone who needed it: Nicki Coulter, a former nurse from Bloomfield, Ky.

 “I used to be a nurse, and I just felt like this was something I needed to do,” Coulter said. “I was blessed with good health and a good support system in my family. So I decided to do it!”

“With a kidney chain, the altruistic donor then benefits not just one person, but a whole group of people,” said Dr. Stephen Strup, chief of the UK Division of Urological Surgery, said in the release. “Having that one person step up and offer to donate a kidney anonymously to anyone who needs it allows us to start matching incompatible pairs through the chain.”

To date, this is the longest donor chain in Kentucky, says the release.

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