SALT LAKE CITY — Organ donation shortages have prompted Intermountain Healthcare to join the National Kidney Registry, a program matching organ donors and recipients through a donor exchange program.
Currently, there are an estimated 103,011 people in the U.S. on the waiting list for a kidney transplant, according to a news release by Intermountain Healthcare. Of that number, 534 people in Utah are still waiting for a transplant.
Intermountain Healthcare intends to employ the National Kidney Registry to reduce the number of individuals in their hospitals on organ waiting lists.
“This is a significant achievement,” Titte Srinivas, MD, medical director of the Intermountain Healthcare Kidney/Pancreas Transplant Program, said in the news release. “The more donors we have access to, the better odds of people getting a life-saving organ.”
One such patient has already been helped. Earlier this month Joel Frederiksen, 59, was able to obtain a kidney through the program, according to the news release. He had been waiting two years for the organ. Frederiksen’s childhood friend, Curtis Brown, had been wanting to donate a kidney to him for over a year but was unable to because they weren’t a good enough match.
The two were signed up on the National Kidney Registry for a paired swap, according to Intermountain Healthcare. Brown’s kidney was donated in December of 2018 and Frederiksen was able to get his new kidney through the exchange on April 3, 2019.
The National Kidney Registry facilitates paired exchanges of donor organs, generally with a loved one donating their kidney to a recipient in the program in exchange for a kidney compatible to their friend or family member in need. The system allows patients to get organs sooner and find better matches that are less likely to be rejected post-transplant.
“It saved my life. I immediately woke up feeling better,” Frederiksen explained in the release. “I felt like I was going nowhere on the national organ transplant list. Joining the National Kidney Registry got me my kidney within six months.”
The median wait time to receive a new kidney, according to the National Kidney Foundation, is 3.6 years. About 13 people die every day waiting for a transplant. Intermountain Healthcare believes its participation in the new program will reduce the wait time to six months or less.
Not only is the process faster, but it reduces the risk of rejection by finding as compatible of donors as possible. Oftentimes, a family member will have some qualities making them a good donor but lack others. National Kidney Registry not only provides one patient with a matching organ but may allow a chain of individuals to receive organs as well.
Participation in the National Kidney Registry also allows individuals to participate in a 90-day kidney replacement policy in the event that their transplant fails and they need a new one, according to their website.