12 patients to participate in 'kidney swap' at San Francisco hospital

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- In a rare medical procedure, 12 patients will participate in a "kidney swap." It's never been done before at California Pacific Medical Center.

The procedures will take place today and tomorrow with six patients donating a kidney and six receiving one.

Thanks to Zully Broussard, six patients will receive a kidney in the next two days. Of course, she only has one to give.

"I thought I was going to help this one person who I don't know, but the fact that so many people can have a life extension, that's pretty big," Broussard said.

Here's how it will work.

Broussard will start the chain of events. She donates a kidney to a main whose relative as willing to donate her kidney but was not compatible. Her kidney goes to someone else who has a relative willing to donate to someone else.

And that kind of pairing continues down the line four more times, with relatives of people on the donor waiting list giving so that others can start living a more normal life.

"In this grouping that we have, we found compatible donors for each of the recipients by trading kidneys around," California Pacific Medical Center surgeon Dr. William Bry said.

This paired kidney exchange is achieved thanks to a software called MatchGrid, developed by David Jacobs. He himself is a 2003 kidney recipient.

He uses a very sophisticated algorithmic program that takes a person's genetic profile and finds potential matches.

"We can give them almost real-time results so you can play with , play what if, check out all the possible combinations," Jacobs said.

Once the matches are confirmed, doctors, nurses and case managers work on the logistics of making it a reality.

"When we did a five-way swap a few years ago, which was one of the largest, it took about three-to-four months. We did this in about three weeks," Jacobs said.

Six patients will undergo surgery on Thursday simultaneously, in adjacent rooms. The remaining six will have their procedures done on Friday.

The operations are done back-to-back to avoid any medical problems or unforeseen circumstances.

"That is the main reason that we don't spread these out over much time. We want to get them all done so that nobody has a chance to get cold feet," Bry said.

Following the operations, Broussard and the others involved in the kidney exchange will have a chance to finally meet.

"I'm in good hands with this medical team I trust entirely," Broussard said.

The National Kidney Foundation reports that there are more than 100,000 people in the United States waiting for a kidney and that 12 people day a day waiting for the transplant.

Click here if you're interested in becoming an organ donor.
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