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Live Kidney Donors Seen as Solution to Kidney Shortage

World Health Organization statistics show kidneys are the most sought after donor organs but there is a global shortage. Some countries have established national pairing programs for prospective donors and recipients. The United States does not has such a program yet, but one is being put together now. Hospitals are already pairing people successfully, for both the patient and the donor. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

A press conference was held in Baltimore, Maryland after surgery that involved ten people. Five people needed a kidney and five people donated a kidney. The five-way swap was made last November [2006] at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

In the United States alone, more than 60,000 Americans are waiting for this surgery.

"Every year we list more and more people for a kidney transplant and that's because more and more people are developing kidney failure, more people are becoming candidates for a transplant," said transplant surgeon Dr. Dorry Segev, who participated in the swap.

Not everybody waiting for a kidney gets one in time. And doctors say kidney disease is on the rise around the world. Doctors have tried to convince more people to donate kidneys upon death, but Dr. Segev says what has happened instead is a huge increase in organs from live donors.

Dr. Jeffrey Veale recently spoke about a swap at the University of California in Los Angeles in which each patient had a relative willing to give them a kidney, but they did not match. So, the donors swapped recipients. He said, "Tiffany, which is right here, Tiffany wanted to give a kidney to her father, Kaz, but unfortunately, they weren't a match. And Jason, here is Jason right here behind me, wanted to give a kidney to his mother [his stepmother], and they were not a match."

Tiffany gave her kidney to Jason's stepmother and Jason gave his to Tiffany's father. Dr. Segev says matching donors is the only realistic way to solve the kidney shortage, though not all donors meet through pairing programs.

Jamie Howard was trying to sell a vacuum cleaner to Paul Sucher. He explianed, "I was a dialysis patient receiving dialysis three days a week and was in desperate need of a kidney." Howard responded, "I just felt moved to help if I could." Some people meet their donors in restaurants, where they work, at school, and on the internet.

Doctors say what is needed now is a national database for paired kidney donations. Dr. Segeve added, "The bigger the pool we can gather for these sorts of paired donations, the more people are going to match and the more people we will be able to transplant."

And that means more lives saved.