Example image from the UW Medicine kidney transplant. Image from UW Medicine on Twitter

by George Taniwaki

On January 14, UW Medicine performed its first live-tweet of a kidney transplant surgery. The surgeon was Stephen Rayhill (who incidentally was the transplant surgeon for the anonymous patient who received my kidney) and the recipient was Dave Skelton, a patient at Northwest Kidney Centers.

A live-tweet is a technique where a participant in an event provides pictures and commentary in real-time to an audience using Twitter. If you are not a Twitter user, it’s a bit hard to explain.

Dave’s kidney came from South Carolina.

Dave’s wife, Brittany, was willing to donate a kidney to him, but was not a biological match. The two asked UWMC to enter them into a kidney exchange to find a match. (UWMC is a member of the National Kidney Registry.) The NKC was able to find a match and Dave became the second patient in a chain. Two days later, Brittany underwent her donor surgery and her kidney was sent to a recipient in Missouri.

This is a long chain involving twelve donor-patient pairs (24 surgeries total). "Being part of the 12-way swap is very exciting and humbling. It is amazing the selfless commitment the donors are displaying. People are amazing and have rekindled my faith in humanity," says Dave. For more about kidney exchanges see this Mar 2010 blog post.

To see the original tweets, search Twitter for @UWMedicine #UWMedicineKidney. Note that some of the images show surgery in progress.

[Update: Removed the links to Storify, the site no longer exists.]