There were plenty of hugs to go around when six patients involved in a triple kidney swap conducted at the University of Maryland Medical Center met for the first time on July 8, 2011. Each recipient originally came to the hospital with an intended donor: a spouse, a sibling and a church friend.
However, when the blood and tissue typing revealed their intended donors were not a match, all three pairs entered UMMC’s Paired Kidney Exchange (PKE) Program, which seeks to create swaps among incompatible pairs. All six patients met for the first time today at UMMC to talk about their experiences since the transplants took place on June 15, 2011.
“It was a great experience to help someone I never met,” said Karen Becker, 54, who entered the PKE program after she found out she was not a match for her husband, John, who had been diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease. By enrolling in the PKE program, Karen was still able to help someone in need — ultimately donating a kidney to Mae Opie, a 73-year-old grandmother from Bel Air who also was living with polycystic kidney disease.
Mae’s original donor was Jesse Epperley, a 28-year-old fellow church member who felt called to donate his kidney after reading about Mae’s need in the church bulletin. When Mae and Jesse didn’t match, he entered the PKE program, and his kidney went to Paul McSorley, a 55-year old from Harford County, who did not match with his fraternal twin, Joy Hindle. Joy ultimately donated her kidney to John Becker, who also suffered from polycystic kidney disease.
All three donors had their kidneys removed through single-incision laparoscopic surgery (SILS) through their belly buttons. The University of Maryland Medical Center was the first hospital in Maryland and only the third hospital in the country to offer this minimally invasive technique for living kidney donors. Donors are often amazed at how easy the surgery can be. “I came out of surgery with nothing but a Band-Aid,” said Hindle. “I couldn’t believe it. It’s amazing; I have no scar.”
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