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Temple University Hospital Performs Kidney Transplant Through Paired Donor Network

This holiday season, two Pennsylvania residents who have never met received kidney transplants from one another's relatives, thanks to an innovative network dedicated to finding matches for pairs of incompatible donors and recipients.

When Mimi Weber of Pequea, Pa., and Galina Komar of Pittsburgh were told they needed kidney transplants, family members rushed to donate one of theirs to them. Unfortunately, no one in their families was deemed an appropriate match – including Mimi's sister, Wendy, and Galina's husband, Vyacheslav, who were healthy enough to donate but were not a compatible match for their loved one.

However, after registering with the North American Paired Donor Network (PDN), Mimi and Galina learned that their respective donors were an appropriate match for each other.

Last week, Vyacheslav traveled across the state to Temple University Hospital (TUH) in Philadelphia, to donate a kidney to Mimi; and Wendy traveled from her home in Wheeling, W.Va., to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where she donated one of her kidneys to Galina.

The surgeries took place simultaneously at both hospitals on Wednesday, Dec. 10. It was Temple's first transplant surgery through the PDN. Two days later, both families met for the first time via video conference.

"The surgeries were a great success, and all patients are resting comfortably," said John A. Daller, MD, PhD, Director of the Abdominal Organ Transplant Program at TUH, who performed Mimi's surgery.

"What better time of year to celebrate the spirit of giving. With more than 70,000 people waiting years for a kidney, it's inspiring to see an organization like the Paired Donor Network building bridges and finding solutions," said Daller, who is also a board member of PDN.

For the patients and families, this week has been the culmination of a long journey filled with emotion.

In 2005, Mimi Weber experienced complete kidney failure due to a rare disorder. This year, she was placed on the waiting list at TUH for a kidney, while she began dialysis treatments.

After numerous family members and friends who stepped up to donate to Mimi failed to be compatible matches, she began to explore other alternatives. She discovered PDN through the Internet, signed up, and was soon connected with Temple, which joined the network in January.

A young mother of three teenage boys, she was determined to do whatever she could to help her situation.

Galina and her family were equally determined to find a solution to her problem after her kidneys failed in 2006. Her husband immediately volunteered to give her one of his kidneys, but was told he was not a match. Next, her brother volunteered. While he was a positive match, he was not approved as a donor because of a health condition. Galina believed time was running out. She had put off going on dialysis because she didn't feel she could take the time off from work that it required, although she believed her options were increasingly limited. In May, she and her husband learned of PDN through her doctor at Pittsburgh, Ronald Shapiro, MD, who is also president of the organization. By fall, the network had cross-matched her and her husband with the Webers.

Date Published: Thursday, December 18, 2008