A Wisconsin woman received the final kidney transplant at the University of Wisconsin Hospital in March, completing the longest chain of kidney donations.
UW Hospital is a member of the National Kidney Registry, an organization that works to match kidney donors with recipients for transplants. The registry organized the completed kidney chain, which started and ended at UW Hospital.
A kidney chain is formed when a patient’s loved one donates their kidney to the registry.
The chain allows patients to be matched with a registry donor much faster than a patient would if waiting on a deceased donor list, Karen Miller, UW Hospital paired kidney exchange coordinator, said.
“The donor still gets to donate to someone else in need, and their recipients receive a kidney from another donor somewhere in the United States,” Miller said.
The registry’s computer software program matches up pairs from 70 hospitals across the United States to determine if there is a matching kidney. Miller said there are more than 300 active donors in the National Kidney Registry at any given time.
The registry accelerates the transplant process, which might otherwise take three to five years for the approximately 110,000 Americans on dialysis waiting for a kidney, Miller said.
“Sometimes they’ll enter a pair into the registry and they’ll get matched within minutes,” Miller said. “There are some times, based on certain factors such as antibodies or even blood type, that [recipients are] waiting a year,” Miller said.
UW Hospital has a larger kidney transplant program and does four kidney transplants per week on average, Miller said.
Of the 68 people in the kidney chain, 34 donors and 34 recipients, five were connected through UW Hospital, Miller said.
The chain started when a Minnesota woman voluntarily gave her kidney without a specific recipient in mind, Miller said. It was then transplanted at UW Hospital, she said.
“Without her, we wouldn’t be talking right now,” Miller said. “To donors in general and people that say, ‘I just want to do this because I can,’ those are pretty special people,” Miller said.