Harvey Mysel of the Living Kidney Donors Network pointed me to an interesting article, Chicago Tribune Mar 2010. Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, IL, recently had four altruistic donors show up at its transplant center. That’s pretty unusual for a mid-sized center. What they did next was even more unusual. Most transplant centers keep donors in their own programs, to assist patients on their own lists and to keep their operating rooms busy. But instead of following this common practice of trying to match donors in-house, Loyola UMC registered all four donors with the National Kidney Registry to help start donor chains. This may be a first.

So it isn’t just donors that need to behave altruistically for kidney chains to work. Hospitals need to do so too in order to help kidney exchanges reach their full potential. Based on its positive experience, Loyola UMC has just announced a pay-it-forward kidney transplant program which I hope means 1) it will actively recruit altruistic donors and 2) it will always try to place altruistic donors through a kidney exchange first, before going to its in-house list. A video from WGN-TV quotes Dr. John Milner of Loyola UMC, “I’m hoping if all centers across the country continue to work on this concept we could reduce wait times for everybody and potentially cut the wait list by as much as half.”


Photo from Chicago Tribune

Incidentally, Mary Clynes, the mother of one of the recipients, Melissa Clynes, participated in a LKDN webinar. She was inspired by what she learned and with the help of LKDN was able to connect with the NKR. Unfortunately, the online version of the article omits this and credits a Google search.

Another aside, the Chicago Tribune article has a voting widget asking readers if they would donate a kidney to a stranger. Two-thirds of the respondents said yes. Guess how I voted.


Image from Chicago Tribune

[Update1: I confirmed that Loyola UMC is a mid-sized transplant center. UNOS data shows that Loyola UMC performed 69 kidney transplants in 2009, putting it at 89 out of 256 in the U.S. That compares with 250 transplants performed at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, which is one of the ten largest transplant centers in the U.S.]

[Update2: Clarified that only the web version of the article is missing the LKDN reference and added link to a video.]

[Update3: On May 25, Loyola announced that it already has 21 people who have signed up to be altruistic donors through its pay-it-forward program.]

[Update4: Some more details about Melissa Clynes’ story is provided in an Oct 2010 post.]