DonateLife: Lifesaving Australian and New Zealand Paired Kidney Exchange Program Returns After Covid Break

Christine Cherry’s offer to donate a kidney to her dying daughter led to them joining a program that now matches donors and organ recipients in two countries.

Hundreds of Australians awaiting life-saving kidney transplants can now rely on the generosity of donors across the Tasman Sea in what organizers say is the world’s first program.

The rescue Australian and New Zealand Paired Kidney Exchange (ANZKX) program is resuming operations after a two-year hiatus caused by Covid.

More than three-quarters of patients on the organ waiting list in Australia need a new kidney, according to OrganMatch: 1,344 out of about 1,750. Another 13,000 people are on dialysis and may need a transplant at some point.

RELATED: DonateLife encourages 100,000 Australians to register as organ donors

The exchange program began in Australia in 2010 and expanded in 2019 to include New Zealand Kidney Exchange to increase the pool of potential donors.

ANZKX Clinical Director Associate Professor Peter Hughes said there is a huge need for a “powerful” service because finding matches, especially for people waiting on the list of deceased organ donors, can take months: a time that some people don’t have.

“We saw a lot of (program participants) who otherwise would not have received a transplant, did it and are doing very well,” said Dr. Hughes.

The program is triggered when a kidney transplant patient finds a donor, but testing shows they don’t match exactly. The donor kidney is then replaced with another to better match the patient to ensure the best long-term outcome.

Some exchanges involve multiple donor-receiver pairs.

Dr Hughes, head of transplant services at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, said that up to 30 percent of donor kidneys in Australia and New Zealand came from living donors. Approximately one in five was made possible by the program.

Before the closure of the country’s borders, 39 transplants were performed under the program. These included four chains of donors and recipients who received eight kidneys between the two countries.

Considering the kidney could only be “on ice for 12 hours,” Dr. Hughes said, urgency and effectiveness were key.

Fellow kidney specialist Professor Kate Wyburn, president-elect of the Australian and New Zealand Transplant Society, said the average wait time to receive a kidney from a deceased donor is three to four years, with some reaching “more than 15 years.” patients, because the waiting time is counted from the start of dialysis.

“Patients must pass a screening (extensive medical examination) to be activated on the waiting list,” she said.

“Only a small percentage of people on dialysis are eligible for a transplant based on their medical fitness.”

Professor Wyburn said the computer algorithm allocated organs to patients ranging in age from infants to people in their 80s based on a number of factors, including urgency and difficulty finding a match.

She said that while the ANZKX has a clear impact, it is still “incredibly significant” that the 13 million Australians aged 16 and over who were eligible to register as organ donors but did not, required 60 seconds. required to register for DonateLife. Web site.

Mom’s Loving Gift That Saves Alexis’ Life

Alexis Cherry came into the world fighting for her life.

But after a kidney transplant at the age of three, the 11-year-old loves life.

“She was born with complete kidney failure, and her lungs were extremely underdeveloped because the kidneys took up all the space in her abdomen and chest,” said mother Christine Cherry.

“(Medical staff) said she would not survive.

“It was very conflicting. She was in all these different cars. Her belly was massive, full of these kidneys that weren’t functioning, but her lungs were the main problem.”

Alexis has a rare genetic disorder called autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease, which causes fluid-filled cysts to develop in her kidneys in utero.

Mrs Cherry said doctors were unsure if her daughter could survive life-saving surgery to remove her kidneys before she was placed on dialysis.

She had no urine, blood pressure problems meant she couldn’t eat, and the ventilator she was on caused a kind of emphysema.

After about six months, Alexis was finally able to return home. But without her kidneys, she had to undergo peritoneal dialysis every night to remove toxins from her blood.

Her first birthday was a milestone, and shortly after her third birthday, she received a new kidney – thanks to her mom.

Alexis was on the list of deceased donors, but as her health deteriorated, Mrs. Cherry offered her kidney.

It wasn’t a complete coincidence, but a loving donation from a Melbourne mom enabled them to participate in the Australian Twin Kidney Exchange Program, which has since expanded to include New Zealand.

Alexis received a kidney from a more suitable donor, while another recipient received Mrs. Cherry’s organ.

Mrs. Cherry now recalls the joy of seeing Alexis’ bag half full two hours after her kidney transplant.

“I never thought that you would be in awe of V. But we have never seen her produce it,” she said.

Alexis is now in the fourth grade and in 10 years she will most likely need another kidney. Ms. Cherry hopes that thanks to the newly established Australian-New Zealand Kidney Exchange Program, Alexis will have more matches when that day comes.

A doctor is much more than a good neighbor

Neighborly gestures to mow the lawn or borrow a cup of sugar took a life-saving turn when Dr. Michael Wines offered to donate his kidney to help the man he shared a fence with.

Sidney, mother of two to Sharon Moss, suffers from polycystic kidney disease, in which fluid-filled cysts grow in her kidneys, causing them to shrink and enlarge to the size of “footballs”.

Upon learning that she needed a kidney transplant in 2015, Mrs. Moss set off in search of a living donor. This included posting her story on Facebook, which generated a lot of interest but no takers.

“I had a young family. I was a very active 45 year old woman and the thought of being on dialysis for the rest of my life was terrifying,” Mrs Moss said.

“I went three days a week. It limited my life, travel was not easy, I was tired and ill.”

Urologist Dr. Vines and his wife, Nina, wanted to help and embarked on a rigorous testing regimen to see if they were suitable candidates.

“Sharon cried to my wife that she didn’t think she could attend her daughters’ weddings,” Dr. Wines said.

Dr. Wines was approved as a donor, but was not a match for Mrs. Moss, so they joined the Australian-New Zealand Paired Kidney Exchange Program.

A doctor at the Royal Sydney Hospital performs about 50 kidney transplants a year and said it could take years to wait for a direct match in the death toll. But the exchange program helped reduce that.

It took several months for them to be matched in the chain of donors and recipients, and after several Covid-related delays, Mrs. Moss received her precious kidney from an anonymous out-of-state donor. Dr. Wines’ kidney also flew interstate.

“(The program) is just wonderful,” Mrs. Moss said. People want to donate, but they don’t fit (their loved one). This generous donation would change someone’s life.”

Deceased organ donors remain critical, she said, encouraging Australians to register through DonateLife.