New Procedure Makes it Easier to Find an Organ Donor

Reporter: Shannon Samson

Indiana set a record for organ donations last year, with 161 donors and 522 organs transplanted.

And both numbers are likely to grow as a new procedure continues to expand the donor pool.

Traditionally, someone in need of an organ stays on a waiting list for years. That wasn't the case for Jerry Wilson of Diamond, Kentucky. He just got out of surgery Monday afternoon in Nashville where he received a kidney, compliments of Dixon resident David Warren.

Warren's wife had told him about Wilson's situation and he wanted to help. Warren says it was God's will that their organs were compatible. Both men were doing well in the recovery room Monday night.

But not everyone has to find a so-called "perfect match" these days. A Newburgh couple is living proof. Vicki Scott gave her husband a kidney even though they're different blood types.

Alan Scott gets blood drawn regularly to make sure his body isn't rejecting his new kidney. Diabetes had rendered his kidneys so dysfunctional that by last summer, toxins in his body had turned his skin yellow. Vicki says, "He went on the list for a pancreas-kidney transplant because the list is shorter than the kidney only list and they said it would be two to two and a half years."

Luckily, the Scott's found out about something called desensitization protocols. Even though her blood is type A and his is type O, she could still give him one of her kidneys as long as Alan went through a blood-washing process called plasmapheresis.

Dr. Tim Taber, with Clarian Transplant Center says, "...Which essentially takes away for some short period of time his antibody to another blood type and then you transplant the patients in that window and interestingly, after the transplantation, they rarely have a rejection down the road to that different blood type kidney."

Vicki didn't hesitate to offer her kidney to her husband of 24 years. "You just don't think about it when you love somebody. You just do what has to be done and go on." Alan says, "She's a real strong woman and I know she could make it if I'm not there, but you worry about the kids and also, I didn't want anything to happen to her. That weighs on you more than anything."

Surgeons at Ohio State harvested Vicki's kidney laparscopically, so she had just a small incision and was home in four days. Alan told his doctors he'd be back to work in two months and sure enough, he was.

But not before he scoured every jewelry store in town and finally custom ordered a special Christmas present for his wife. A golden kidney to replace the one she gave him. Alan says, "She's my hero. She's my soul mate."

Patients who have antibodies in their blood because they've had a previous transplant, transfusion or were pregnant can also undergo these desensitization protocols. However, these patients all have a higher risk of rejection than if their organ donor was a so-called "perfect match". Still these patients do a lot better than doctors ever expected.

How do the donors do with only one kidney? Very well, but they're no more predisposed to kidney problems. So if they do end up with kidney disease, it was likely going to happen anyway