Recycle kidney, beat donor crisis

Transplanted Organ Removed From A Patient, Given To Another

Chicago: It turns out you can recycle just about anything these days — even kidneys and other organs donated for transplants.

    Recently in Chicago, in what is believed to be the first documented case of its kind in the US, a transplanted kidney that was failing was removed from a patient while he was still alive and given to somebody else.

    There have been other cases since the 1980s of transplant organs being used more than once, but they were rare and involved instances in which the first recipient died.

    Typically when transplanted organs fail in living patients, doctors throw them away. But with more than 73,000 people awaiting transplants nationwide, some specialists say doctors should consider trying to reuse more organs to ease the severe shortage.

    “The need for kidney transplantation doesn’t match our capacity,” said Dr Lorenzo Gallon, a Northwestern University transplant specialist who oversaw the kidney recycling operation in Chicago. “People die on dialysis” while awaiting kidneys.

    That was the possible fate awaiting two strangers.

    Ray Fearing of Illinois, received a new kidney that was later reused by Erwin Gomez of Indiana, a surgeon familiar with the medical complexities involved. The donated kidney lasted just two weeks in Fearing.
The same disease that ruined his kidneys started to damage the new kidney, given to him by his sister. He was getting sicker, and doctors needed to act fast if they were going to save the organ.

Gallon thought the kidney could be reused in somebody else if it was removed quickly, before it became irreversibly damaged. Gallon needed Fearing’s permission, and also asked his sister, Cera Fearing.

    “I just assumed it’s damaged, it’s garbage,” she said. “The fact that they were able to give it to someone that somehow was able to benefit from it was great.”

    The removal and retransplant operations took place July 1. Within two days, the transplanted kidney had regained function. Gallon said he is convinced the damage is reversed.

    Gomez is taking anti-rejection drugs and is off dialysis. “I finally feel normal,” he said. AP