Kidney Exchange – Pam

Pam's Story

Kidney Transplant Chain

Pamela Heckathorn, of Cypress, Calif., was to receive a kidney from her cousin Dave Busk, who lives in the Los Angeles area; husband and wife Arturo and Maricela Carvajal, of Fillmore, Calif., were to have formed a donor-recipient pair; and Randy Platt, of Covina, Calif., wanted to give a kidney to his mother, Inocenta. But each of these donors turned out to be incompatible with their loved ones.

So on July 24, Busk's kidney was given to Maricela, and Arturo's was given to Inocenta. And on July 30, the altruistic New York donor's kidney was flown from NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell to UCLA and given to Pamela Heckathorn. Meanwhile, Randy Platt will be the "bridge" to initiate another cluster and more transplants.

"Living-donor exchange represents the pinnacle of teamwork and professional and personal trust and good faith that ideally epitomizes the organ transplant endeavor," said Dr. Gabriel Danovitch, professor of medicine in the UCLA Division of Nephrology and medical director of the UCLA Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation Program. "The team consists of surgeons, physicians, nurses, coordinators, patients and donors all working together toward the same goal."

Other members of the UCLA surgical team were Dr. H. Albin Gritsch, associate professor of urology and surgical director of the UCLA Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation Program; Dr. Gerald Lipshutz, assistant professor of surgery and urology and director of the UCLA Highly Sensitized Kidney Transplant Program; Dr. Peter Schulam, associate professor of urology; and Dr. Jennifer Singer, assistant clinical professor of urology at the David Geffen School of Medicine and director of pediatric urology at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Dr. Alan H. Wilkinson, director with Danovitch of the Kidney and Kidney-Pancreas Transplantation Programs and professor of medicine, Division of Nephrology and Suzanne McGuire, R.N., living-donor transplant coordinator, were also involved with the patients’ care.

Other members of the NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell transplant team included Dr. David Leeser, assistant attending surgeon and assistant professor of surgery in transplantation; Marian Charlton, R.N., living-donor transplant coordinator; Judith Hambleton, R.N., director of living-donor transplantation; Allyson Pifko, R.N., transplant data coordinator; and Jennifer Keen, L.M.S.W., living-donor transplant social worker.

Nearly 79,000 people are on the kidney transplant waiting list in the United States, according to statistics from the United Network for Organ Sharing. California alone has some 16,240 people on the list.

"Patients can wait up to eight years for a deceased-donor transplant," Veale said. "This donor chain may enable hundreds of patients to receive a kidney, thanks to one generous altruistic donor, rather than in the past, where only one patient benefited from an altruistic donor. This could significantly decrease the waiting list for kidney transplantation."

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