YOUR HEALTH: Banking on kidney transplants for those you love

ATLANTA, Georgia – Every month about 3000 new people are placed on the kidney transplant list.

But 13 people die each day waiting for their transplant.

Three year olds Adele and Aubrey may be twins, but they couldn't be more different from each other.

A big difference between the two: Aubrey has two kidneys, while Adele, also known as Delly, has one.

When Delly was born she was diagnosed with multicystic kidney disease.

"She immediately went into renal failure," explained her grandmother, Jaime McNeil.

Delly is doing well now with her kidney function at 78%.

"At this point it's looking like she will need a kidney transplant within the next ten years or so," said her mother, Meghann Adams.

But when she does need her transplant, she will be transferred to the living kidney donor list.

It's all thanks to her grandmother donating her kidney to a complete stranger.

Through the National Kidney Registry's donor voucher program, a donor can donate a kidney now and get a voucher for an intended recipient for a later living donor transplant.

"Those time frames are significantly shorter than you would have to wait for a deceased donor kidney," said Dr. Nicole Turgeon, a transplant surgeon at Emory University School of Medicine.

Acceptable organ donors can range in age from newborns to 65 years or more.

"Deceased donor kidneys, you can wait anywhere from a couple of years all the way up to eight to ten years."

Just one living donor taking part in this voucher program can help over a hundred people on the transplant list.

"If I can inspire just three people to donate a kidney and those three people can inspire three more people and those three people can inspire three more people," said Jamie.

"If we did that just eleven times over, we could wipe out the whole kidney list."

Jaime's kidney donation started off a chain that impacted eight people with four kidney transplants.

But now she also has that safety net for her granddaughter, for whenever she will need her kidney.

KIDNEY DONOR VOUCHER:    The Kidney Voucher Program allows you to write a list of five people who you would like to donate one of your kidneys to.   The vouchers would be for one of the people on that list and once it is used it will negate the use for the other four people.   However, if someone on your list needs the kidney but is not compatible, they will receive a compatible kidney, and yours will go towards the list of the person who donated their kidney to your loved one.    The advantage of this program is that you can give your kidney and know that someone on your list will potentially receive a living donor kidney in the future.   This also allows you to donate your kidney when it is convenient for you and your health and will put you in a priority list should you ever encounter kidney failure with your other kidney.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

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