How One Woman's Pay-It-Forward Gesture May Save Six People's Lives
Today, the second part of a rare six-way kidney transplant is taking place, a chain of donations started by one amazing woman. It's a story that might just reaffirm your faith in humanity.
Zully Broussard, 55, decided she was going to donate a kidney to a stranger in need, and showed up at California Pacific Medical Center at San Francisco to offer it up. She'd lost a son to cancer 13 years ago—and then her husband to cancer close to a year ago, reports NBC. As Broussard said, "I know what it feels like to want an extra day."
A computer program developed by another kidney recipient (talk about cosmic goodness) paired Broussard with a man who had a relative willing to donate a kidney, but who wasn't compatible. And so, that man's relative instead donated a kidney to another patient who had a family or friend unable to donate. And so it went four more times. Donors and recipients include three parent-and-child pairs, a sibling pair and one brother- and sister-in-law pair.
Kidney chains are becoming A Thing—a very necessary one. Some 102,000 people are on the waiting list for a kidney, with less than 17,000 transplants happening per year, per the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the government-appointed organization that manages the nation's organ transplant system.
Two years ago, a National Kidney Registry chain lead to 28 transplants in 19 transplant centers across the United States. Last summer, a string of of 21 patients got kidney transplants at the University of Alabama Birmingham Medical Center—the longest ongoing chain in the country. As with the California chain, in order to get a kidney every recipient had to have someone in their life willing to donate a kidney to a stranger in need. The standing record for the longest living-donor kidney transplant: 34 donors and recipients, as of December 2014.
Here's a helpful video explaining how the system works from kidney recipient David Goldman, part of that kidney chain of 28:
More good news: New kidney transplant rules instituted in December, geared toward giving some patients a better chance of receiving a longer-lasting organ and moving up those on the waiting list, seem to be effective, per a monitoring report recently released by UNOS.
Donating a kidney isn't without risk, as this NPR report spells out. Here's wishing Broussard and all of the chain participants a speedy recovery—plus lots and lots of karma to the donors.