Here's a story from the New York Times that's sure to warm your kidney. Yeah, you heard me right. This is the story about kidneys and how one Good Samaritan was able to save 30 lives by donating one of his.
It all started last year, when Rick Ruzzamenti of California heard about a friend who had donated her kidney to another friend who she had recently bumped into at the store. Ruzzamenti, 44, had never even donated blood, but he was so inspired by the story that he called his local hospital to ask how he might do the same thing.
Six months later, Ruzzamenti’s kidney found a home in a 66-year-old man from New Jersey. The man’s niece had wanted to give him her kidney, but couldn't because they had different blood types. But in exchange for saving her uncle, she decided to "pay it forward" by donating her kidney to a patient in Wisconsin. This patient's ex-boyfriend (now that's dedication!) then donated his kidney to a patient in Pennsylvania.
And so on and so on the kidney donor chain continued until it ended a few weeks ago with a kidney transplant in Illinois. Chain 124, as it was labeled by the nonprofit National Kidney Registry, involved an incredible amount of coordination and innovation. It was responsible for the donation of 30 kidneys to 30 patients in 17 hospitals spread over 11 states. Patients who would otherwise have had to wait the standard five to 10 years to receive a kidney from a deceased donor.
For some patients, a living donor can eliminate the wait on the transplant list. But roughly 30 percent of patients either don't have a willing donor among their family and friends or the immune systems of the patient and a willing donor don't match. Living-donor chains have the potential to dramatically reduce transplant waiting times and save the lives of thousands of patients.
As was the case with Rick Ruzzamenti, it all starts with a Good Samaritan — someone who feels compelled to give a kidney without expecting anything in return. The chain can go on indefinitely, moving from hospital to hospital and state to state, stopping only when a recipient patient does not have a friend or family member who can keep the chain going.
Chain 124 was the world's longest, involving 60 surgeries and saving 30 lives. The previous record for the longest chain, set in 2010 by the National Kidney Registry, was 23 transplants.