April 1, 2019
Inspirational living kidney donor chain saves lives of two mothers; moving experience for donors
In honor of National Donate Life Month, Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center announced its transplant team completed a unique living Kidney Transplant Donor chain – in which each living donor gives to a stranger and the chain keeps going – that saved two lives, linking three different families for life. The living donor chain saved the lives of two mothers and was an inspirational, moving experience for the donors.
“The transplant team at Hackensack University Medical Center was thrilled to be able to successfully complete this unique living donor kidney chain,” said Michael J. Goldstein, M.D., FACS, interim chief of transplantation, director of kidney & pancreas transplantation, Division of Organ Transplantation, Hackensack University Medical Center. Dr. Goldstein and his team performed the living donor chain surgeries. “There are so many people on a waiting list for a kidney, and a kidney transplant from a living donor has a longer average lifespan. Living donor kidney chains like this one are rare in New Jersey, and it was an honor to bring these three families together. It is our hope that more people come forward to make altruistic donations.”
Susan Wilson of Red Bank is a flight attendant who suffered a kidney injury due to a complication from back surgery at a different hospital. She was referred to Michael Stifelman, M.D., chair of Urology at Hackensack University Medical Center who suggested that Ms. Wilson consider kidney autotransplantation – removing the injured kidney, repairing it and placing the kidney back into her body. But, Ms. Wilson was inspired by how many lives her late mother’s donated organs saved through the Sharing Network and asked Dr. Goldstein if she could donate her kidney to someone in need.
“Living donor kidney chains give patients with kidney disease an organ with a longer lifespan,” said Ankita Patel, M.D., transplant nephrologist, Hackensack University Medical Center. Dr. Patel oversees the living donor program and orchestrated the matches and compatibilities for this living donor chain. “At Hackensack University Medical Center, we provide the best possible care for our patients and are focused on improving our patients’ quality of life. It was inspiring to watch the generosity of these altruistic donors and moving to see how grateful the recipients of these organs were throughout this entire process.”
While Ms. Wilson was still considering whether to keep or donate her kidney, Mrs. Jung Park, 58, of Englewood Cliffs, had been on dialysis for six months and was on the kidney waiting list. Mrs. Park and her husband, Jin Park, 59, had learned that he was a different blood type and, therefore, an incompatible donor. Mr. and Mrs. Park, who have two children, were waiting for a compatible donor to come along so Mrs. Park could receive a living donor kidney transplant. Mr. Park, in turn, would donate his kidney to a compatible recipient on the kidney transplant waiting list. In the fall of 2018, the Parks were informed by Hackensack University Medical Center that they had found a compatible donor for Mrs. Park – Ms. Wilson.
“I have been suffering from kidney disease since I was nine years old,” said Mrs. Park. “Then Susan came along, and the wait was finally over. The staff, nurses, and doctors at Hackensack University Medical Center helped me so much. Everyone was very friendly and kind, especially Dr. Patel and Dr. Goldstein. When I met Susan, I was crying because I felt so lucky and happy. She gave me a new life.”
“I had amazing parents who taught me to be kind and that life is about helping other people,” said Ms. Wilson. “After my mother was pronounced brain dead, my family and I worked with the Sharing Network, an incredible organization that donated my mom’s organs to so many people. Every year, I receive letters from people whose lives she helped save. After I talked with Drs. Stifelman and Goldstein about my options, I knew that if I could live a normal life with one kidney, why wouldn’t I just donate it to someone in need? I turned a bad situation into a good situation, and I am so happy I got a chance to meet Mrs. Park and her family.”
Simultaneously while Mr. and Mrs. Park were waiting for a match, another mother in Queens, New York, Bibi Uddin, was also awaiting a kidney transplant. Ms. Uddin, 30, who is a mother of two twin 5-year-old boys, suffered from End Stage Renal Disease as a result of Systemic Lupus. She had been on the kidney transplant waiting list in New York for more than four and a half years and still did not match any known living donors. She was then informed that a match had been found with Mr. Park. She learned she would be taken off the waiting list.
“I was very sorry to learn at first that our different blood types made me an incompatible kidney donor for my wife,” said Mr. Park. “The doctors and team at Hackensack University Medical Center did a great job explaining what our options were to us. As soon as I learned about the living kidney donor option, I wanted to know the best way to go about donating my kidney, and they helped us make a plan.”
“I wanted to have a better quality of life, and I am so grateful that Mr. Park donated his kidney to me,” said Ms. Uddin. “I am already feeling better, and as a mother of twin 5-year-old boys, I need all the energy I can get. It is important for those on dialysis suffering from End Stage Renal Disease to remember there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. I hope people can become more aware of this disease and know that becoming a donor can really change a person’s life. It means so much more than words can express.”
Hackensack University Medical Center has a renowned kidney and pancreas transplant program. The living donor kidney chain surgeries were completed on back to back days in the fall of 2018. Shortly after the surgeries were complete, Ms. Wilson, Mr. and Mrs. Park, Ms. Uddin and their families met at Hackensack University Medical Center. The families are discussing a reunion in the spring of 2019. Everyone involved in the living donor kidney chain are recovering well.