Eleven years ago, McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Ron Shapiro, MD, professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh and the Robert J. Corry chair in transplantation surgery at the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, performed life-changing kidney transplant surgery on patient, Darian DeLuca of Westmoreland County. This year, Ms. DeLuca graduated from Kiski Area High School and when she received her diploma, she took a little part of her uncle, Greg George, with her. Mr. George was her kidney donor for this life-changing living-donor surgery.
Living donor kidney transplantation is a type of transplant in which a healthy kidney from a living person (the donor) is taken out and used to replace the unhealthy kidney of another person (the recipient). This procedure was the first type of transplant ever.
There are several benefits to having a living donor. With a living donor, the transplant is planned for a time when the person waiting for the kidney is in the best condition. From the day a person is first placed on the waiting list for a kidney transplant, he or she may wait 2 to 10 years to get a kidney from someone who has died. With a living donor transplant, there is no waiting.
Many studies have shown that recipients of a live donor kidney transplant have better outcomes than recipients of a deceased donor. A kidney from a living donor is placed into the recipient as soon as it is removed from the donor. This improves the chances that the kidney will function immediately. A kidney from a deceased donor may need to be stored many hours before it can be transplanted.
For the donor, there is the additional benefit of knowing that he or she has contributed to another person’s life in a very meaningful way.
Finally, living donor kidney transplants increase the number of kidneys available for transplantation.
Ms. DeLuca, who will need to take anti-rejection medicine for the rest of her life, has gained a deeper understanding and appreciation for the life-changing gift from her uncle in the years since the transplant.
“When I was little, I didn’t know what was going on except, when I was in dialysis, I remember my mom had to get rid of her cat,” she recalled. “I knew it was something serious because that cat was like my everything and she had to get rid of it because I was on dialysis and I wasn’t allowed around animals. I remember my dad, seeing all my family depressed and worried, is what really caused me to want to get better.”