Organ donor pairing program saves lives

Tuesday, October 14th 2008, 7:20 pm
By: News 9

By Kirsten McIntyre, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- It's a medical first in Oklahoma, the "pairing" of kidney donors. This new idea is slowly spreading across the United States and now, INTEGRIS Baptist has done it with success.

Imagine your loved one needing a kidney transplant and you find out, you're not compatible. Now, imagine another family in the same predicament. A new donor program brings those families together and allows them to swap kidneys.

"There were two surgical teams and four operations," Dr. Scott Samara said.

Those operations took place last week at the transplant institute at INTEGRIS Baptist. But the transplants were far from typical.

"I've been humbled by the whole experience," Susan Cates said.

Cates has been a diabetic for 30 years. When her kidneys began to fail, her husband, Ross, offered one of his, but he quickly found out he wasn't compatible.

"It was disappointing, but that's natural," Ross said.

Tresa Hargrove has a rare kidney disease. Her sister, Trina, gave her a kidney 13 years ago, but medication damaged it.

"I was hoping this kidney would last a lifetime, I really was," Trina said.

Needing a new one, Hargrove's brother, John, stepped in to try and help.

"When I got married, I told my wife, ‘If anything ever happens, I'm next in line'," John said.

But John soon found out, he wasn't a match.

INTEGRIS Baptist put these strangers together. Using a computer program, doctors determined Susan and John were a match, and so were Ross and Tresa.

Not knowing each other yet, they agreed to the swap. Their surgeries went off without a single problem.

"So, it was like a double blessing," Susan said.

"It takes it from being able to help one person to two, it's a great feeling," John said.

"I really feel like we're going to become good friends," Tresa said. "I have Ross in me and Susan has part of Johnnie in her; we're together for life."

Both Susan and Tresa said their new kidneys are working great and they're so thankful for the sacrifice of their loved ones.

Doctors said if this paired donation program is adopted nationwide, 3,000 to 4,000 more people could receive transplants every year.