Making the Match for a Kidney Transplant

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When Amy Comonie of Olyphant found out last year that her fiancee, Khalid Fuller, needed a kidney, she didn't hesitate to give him hers.

"I was surprised we were such a good match, but I knew.  You can only get dealt so many bad cards before something has to work out.  So I figured out rising out of this would be that I'd give him my kidney," said Amy.

Khalid was in renal failure.  He'd just been put on a wait list for a kidney, facing years of
dialysis.  Luckily he didn't need it.

"If someone can have a kidney donated by a family member, friend, or church member, that would go a long way in helping patients out," noted Dr. Chintalapati Varma, director of transplant surgery at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center near Wilkes-Barre.

At that facility alone, there have been about 100 kidney transplants since 2006, and about half of those have been from a living donor rather than a deceased, or cadavaric, donor.

"One of the beautiful things about a living donor transplant is that we can schedule the operation," said Dr. Manish Gupta.  He is the transplant surgeon who took out Amy's kidney while a separate surgical team, headed up by Dr. Varma, waited to give it to Khalid.

He says siblings are usually the closest matches when it comes to kidney donation, but often many people in a patient's circle of family and friends are tested.

"Amongst fiancees or boyfriends girlfriends or significant others, or even with a random person off the street, first the blood types must be compatible.  And there's about a 33% chance they're not," said Dr. Gupta.

Doctors say transplants in general have come a long way, so much so they're now considered routine operations with little risk, as long as the donors are carefully chosen.

In Khalid's case, his brother wasn't the best option because of medical conditions.  But Amy was just as good of a match medically, and as Khalid points out, in every other way too.  He calls this merely a "pothole" in a long life together.

"We got over that one.  We're just gonna keep on going.  And when something else comes up, we'll get over that one too," said Khalid.