Kidney donor wants to make the world better

April 17, 2009 11:00:59 AM PDT
The wait for a kidney transplant can be as long as eight years. Often, family members are willing to donate one of their kidneys, but many times they aren't a match. There's an amazing new program where a good Samaritan with nothing to gain, gives a kidney to a stranger.Carey Barrett came to Houston to give a kidney to a stranger.

He said, "I have the ability to do that and maybe make the world a little better and that's why I want to do this."

"I said no," recalled Carey's wife Monique Hache-Barrett. "I said, 'No, you can't do it.'"

But finally Carey persuaded his reluctant wife.

"I'm so proud of him, there's no words," Monique said.

Brenda Chapa of Wharton, Texas, had been waiting for a kidney. Ten friends and family members had tried to donate a kidney to her but none was a match.

"I really had given up," she said. "After my 10 donors didn't match, I had given up. So, when I got the call I couldn't believe it."

Carey Barrett, the stranger from Georgia, did match. So in simultaneous surgeries at Memorial Hermann Wednesday, he gave one of his kidneys to Brenda. It's a kind of 'pay it forward' gift which began at Memorial Hermann this week. If it continues there's actually a name for it. It's called NEAD -- the Never Ending Altruistic Donor chain, and some hope it could make thousands of additional kidneys available.

Memorial Hermann Transplant Director Dr. Charles Van Buren said, "What this dramatically does is expand the pool of potential living donors for people. So if my donor doesn't match me, they can give the kidney to someone elsewhere and that person's donor can give the kidney to me."

Both surgeries went well. Brenda's tearful family has a special place for Carey Barrett in their hearts.

"He's not a stranger anymore," she said. "He's definitely going to be my best friend."

Next week they hope to meet the stranger who saved Brenda's life. A doctor in Ohio helped match Brenda and Carey using a computer program which pairs donors with recipients. Doing a paired donation helps ensure that anyone in need of a transplant who has a willing donor is more likely to get a kidney. Brenda's transplant is the 14th coordinated by this new paired donor program.

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Christi Myers is ABC13's Healthcheck reporter

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