Health & Science

Houston Methodist Performs Six-Way Kidney Swap

When a woman agreed to a kidney transplant at Houston Methodist, it created a domino effect that resulted in the largest organ swap in the hospital’s history.

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Dana Edson was talking with a friend from her church in Kerrville, TX. Her friend’s son was in need of a kidney transplant. Edson offered to be tested to see if she was a match for Mark Ridgaway, whom she’d never met.

Ridgaway had been given a kidney transplant from his mother 16 years ago, but he was in need of another transplant and had been on a wait list for over a year. It turned out that Edson was match, but instead of donating a kidney to Ridgaway, Dr. Osama Gaber – director of the J.C. Walter Jr. Transplant Center at Houston Methodist – asked her to enter a swap program.

She agreed on one condition: "I wouldn't want to give my kidney if Mark had to wait three years for his, and that's when (Dr. Gaber) gave me the guarantee that Mark would get his the same day as I gave mine," says Edson.

When it was all said and done, Edson's willingness to enter the program resulted in a six-way kidney swap. 71-year old Rudyne Walker was the last of the six to receive a kidney. She was in stage five renal failure when she received, Edson's.

"I got from Dana a kidney that is young and vigorous and excited about life. I haven't had a kidney like that in 40-years. It moves me when I'm not ready to go," said Walker.

In order for a recipient to receive a kidney, they must have a donor willing to enter the swap program. Kellie Canaday worked with Walker at Exxon. Canaday had offered to donate a kidney for Walker but they weren’t a match. Maria Coronado ended up receiving Kellie’s kidney.

Juan Coronado shed 30 pounds to help his wife. Maria had been dealing with dialysis for two years. Juan’s kidney went to Steve Miller, whom Coronado had never met. Miller had been battling with diabetes for 43 years and like Ridgaway, was in need of a second transplant.

Olivia Miller wanted to help her husband, but she was not a match. So instead she helped Esmerelda Guerrero. Guerrero and her husband Cesar are Jehovah’s Witnesses from New Mexico. They had been turned down in their effort to receive a kidney transplant for Esmerelda because they refuse to have blood transfusions. Fortunately for them, Houston Methodist is one of a select few hospitals that perform bloodless transfusions.

"We have a program for Jehovah's Witness transplants. We do actual lung transplants with Jehovah's Witnesses. So, we give them hormones to raise their blood count, we prepare them differently for the transplant," says Dr. Gaber.

While Cesar didn’t provide a kidney for his wife, he was still able to help. Felix Rodriguez received Cesar’s kidney. Sandra Izquierdo wanted to help her brother, Felix, but couldn’t because she wasn’t a match. Instead her kidney went to Mark Ridgaway.

Six donors and six recipients, all thanks to the kindness of strangers, though they all consider themselves family now. Dr. Gaber says months of preparation went into performing the “six-way” organ swap. “You actually need 12 operating rooms and it is hard on the hospital because of the complexity, you don't want to make mistakes. The kidney needs to go to the right place," said Dr. Gaber.

With more than 1,400 people on the Methodist kidney transplant wait list, the hospital hopes more people will participate in the program.

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