In April of this year, Jodi Tamen donated her kidney through a new pay-it-forward program at Loyola University Medical Center. (The novel Loyola program was described in an April 2010 blog post.) Loyola is a participant in the National Kidney Registry which matched Ms. Tamen’s kidney to a patient at the UCLA Medical Center.
The patient that received the kidney was G. Murray Thomas, a writer. His sister then donated a kidney to keep the pay-it-forward chain alive. Since his transplant, Mr. Thomas has penned a collection of poems about his experience. One of them, entitled “Your Kidney Just Arrived at LAX” was published in the Examiner in Jun 2010. It’s funny and gross and poignant. (Go ahead and click the link, read the poem, and come back.)
Last week, Ms. Tamen flew to LA and attended a reading of that poem by Mr. Thomas at Loyola Marymount University. The story of their encounter is covered by columnist Sandy Banks of the LA Times Nov 2010.
In the article, Ms. Banks makes a wonderfully insightful comment, “[t]he kidney transplant process, it seems, is in the midst of an evolution, driven less by medical advances than by a melding of technology and compassion.” She is right. Kidney exchanges have the potential to revolutionize the way live kidney transplants are conducted in the U.S. The process of matching donors and recipients does not require any new medical advances. It relies solely on mathematics, fast computers, and a pool of willing donors. Let’s hope the exchanges meet that potential. (Another column written by Ms. Banks about a kidney chain that started at UCLA is described in another Nov 2010 blog post.)