Finding a kidney donor hadn’t been easy for Albert Morina. In April 2015, he was told that the kidney his mother had donated to him in 2001 would soon need to be replaced. Although his care team assured him he had some time left before a new transplant was necessary, Morina’s friends and family began to undergo testing to find a match.
Morina’s sister was tested and determined to be a good match. In February 2016, just over three months after he had begun seeking a potential donor, Morina was preparing for his second transplant.
“My sister’s compatibility testing came back with some issues. She was an incompatible match for me,” recalls Morina. “We had gone through three months of testing and all was fine. Then we were all blindsided two weeks before surgery. It was the hardest phone conversation I can remember having. She was crushed; she wanted to do anything possible to help.”
Morina's first kidney transplant had introduced a high level of antibodies to his body. Finding another donor would be more challenging than it would have been for Morina as a first-time transplant recipient.
And so, the search began again. Morina’s wife was tested, and appeared to be a good match. His surgery was rescheduled. But, in a situation that was all too familiar to Morina, her compatibility testing showed she was not the right match.
Although Morina had a long list of friends and family willing to donate, there were other factors to consider. To find the best match for him, Morina’s care team at Lankenau Medical Center suggested that Morina enter a paired exchange program.
Through a paired kidney exchange, Morina would receive a kidney from a donor somewhere else in the country, and one of Morina’s family members—who had not been a match for him—would donate their kidney in return.
“Patients who have been unable to find a living kidney donor often find more success through a paired kidney exchange program. It offers a greater database of donors, and the opportunity for our patients—and others awaiting transplants—to get a compatible match,” says Laurel Lerner, transplant coordinator at Lankenau, part of The Jefferson Transplant Institute.
At first, Morina was hesitant.
“I’ve had pizza and furniture delivered, but I never heard of kidneys being delivered. But, every time I thought about it, the one thing that kept coming back to me was the trust and confidence I have in the Lankenau team. This is what they do, this is all they do. They had been pushing the right buttons for me for the last 15 years, and I had no reason to believe that wouldn't continue," says Morina.
At the same time that Morina was matched in the exchange, he found out one of two friends who got tested for him was also a match.
"I went from not having a match to having two matches. Again, I relied on my comfort and trust in the team to decide which one to take. They still recommended the kidney exchange to find the best match for me, so I went with it,” he says.
With the support of his family, friends, and the Lankenau team he had long entrusted with his care, Morina entered the paired exchange program, with his wife and sister, one of whom would donate their kidney to other patients involved in the exchange. The transplant team warned Morina that it could take anywhere from six months to one year to find a match.
Morina was matched in two weeks.
Instead of a paired exchange, which typically involves two donors and two recipients, Morina became part of a three-way paired kidney exchange with four patients at a Louisiana hospital. The process was more complex, but would result in three kidney transplants. His wife, Suzanne, would donate her kidney to one of two recipients in Louisiana.
Despite initially being hesitant to participate in the program, Morina now calls it “a game changer. ” Since the successful exchange in May 2016, Morina has been in good health and is excited to have his energy back.
“I feel great. This is the most energy I’ve had since I was diagnosed with kidney disease in 1999. My mom was my first donor and it worked great, but getting my second one has been incredible,” he says.
While Morina is grateful to his friends and family for their support and willingness to donate, he also offers his thanks to the Lankenau team for helping him navigate the journey to obtaining a second transplant.
“Laurel was my transplant coordinator when I had my first transplant at another hospital, and Dr. Francisco Badosa was my doctor,” says Morina. “When they both came to Lankenau back in 2002, I followed them because I was so impressed with their care. The reason I stayed with them is because I had confidence and comfort knowing that they were looking out for me. Now the team tells me what I need to do and I just do it. It continues to work for me!”
A six-way kidney swap unites three families
(April 1, 2018) – Both the patients and donors did not know about the six-way swap until months after the surgery took place. The Glagos learned about the donor and recipient in Kenner over the summer in 2016. Last weekend, both families met the Morinas, when they flew down from Philadelphia to visit New Orleans. “It’s surreal—we kept thinking, wow… we all share body organs.“
Read the full article on nola.com.