WASHINGTON, June 1, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- (http://www.myprgenie.com) -- Medical history was made last December when a 31-year old Oklahoma woman donated her kidney to a stranger - a man living in Athens, Greece. In return, the Greek man's wife has donated one of her kidneys to someone in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., completing the first intercontinental kidney exchange and opening a door that potentially can save thousands of lives in the U.S. and worldwide. A donor from Trinidad and Tobago will soon travel to Denver to continue the chain.
This first intercontinental Kidney Paired Donation (KPD) and subsequent pay-it-forward chain of kidney transplants was announced today at a news conference at the Embassy of Greece in Washington. Ambassador Vassilis Kaskarelis introduced some donors and recipients, and doctors who assisted in this cross-border process.
Kidney Paired Donation takes place when a donor who is incompatible with the designated recipient promises to donate a kidney to a stranger in order to enable their designee to receive a compatible kidney from another stranger. Though paired exchanges have taken place in the U.S. for ten years, enlarging the donor pool to get more Americans transplanted by including other nations has been problematic due to transplant laws in other nations and the United States, according to Michael Rees, MD, PhD, the CEO of the Alliance for Paired Donation and Director of Transplantation at the University of Toledo Medical Center in Ohio. Expanding donor chains beyond U.S. borders can increase the potential donor pool exponentially, Dr. Rees noted.
Although 17,000 kidney transplants are performed annually in the U.S., there are still 96,000 people in "immediate need" of a transplant. Donor scarcity causes an average wait of five years for a suitable kidney, while dialysis and related costs are $120,000 to $300,000 annually. The yearly cost of maintenance after a transplant is about $30,000.
The international breakthrough follows tireless efforts of Dora Papaioannou-Helmis, who worked to save her husband's life. They were the first foreigners entered into America's "Alliance for Paired Donation" recipient and donor pool, resulting from close cooperation between the Greek government, University of Toledo Medical Center, Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center; Jewish Hospital Transplant Center, Louisville, KY; and Scripps Green Hospital in La Jolla, CA. Atlanta's Piedmont Hospital and the University of Colorado Hospital, Denver, also have transplants scheduled as part of this chain.
Four months after her husband received a kidney, Dora kept her promise and came from Greece to donate a kidney. Five transplants have since taken place, with two more scheduled as part of this groundbreaking international chain.
The Alliance for Paired Donation is an American non-profit organization (501-C-3) that facilitates kidney paired exchanges worldwide. Services are free for donors and recipients, and the Alliance assists with financial support for travel, food and lodging.
SOURCE Alliance for Paired Donation