- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 10, 2006

Lifesaving matches are being made via the Internet thanks to Web sites devoted to finding suitable donors for those needing a kidney transplant.

“We have 3,072 [prospective] donors, who are actively seeking transplant recipients for their kidneys,” said Paul Dooley, founder and chief executive officer of MatchingDonors.com, an enterprise that has arranged 27 such transplants since its first in October 2004. “We have 40 more coming up in the next few months. Right now, we have 150 people who are looking for organs.”

However, the Richmond-based United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) has a list of 92,000 people awaiting organ transplants, of which 66,850 want kidneys, UNOS spokeswoman Anne Paschke said Friday.

“About 400,000 Americans are currently living with end-stage renal failure” and are being kept alive through kidney dialysis, said Mr. Dooley. This three-day-a-week procedure is not pleasant, often leaving patients chilled-to-the-bone and with raging headaches.

UNOS provides organs only from cadavers, and the recipient is kept in the dark about the identity of the donor. Patients typically wait three to seven years for an organ, and more than 6,700 a year die waiting.

The goal of MatchingDonors is to drastically increase the odds of finding a donor by greatly elevating the role of live organ donors in the total transplant picture. This matching is occurring as more and more research indicates that a transplant patient is more likely to do better with an organ from a live donor, even one that is not perfectly matched, than a better-matched organ from a dead person.

Unlike UNOS, MatchingDonors allows transplant recipients to find out something about their donors. One woman who used the Web site said she liked knowing her kidney was going to a female physician because she “wanted to help someone who would help others.”

Gloria Denson of Fort Washington is on the MatchingDonors Web site seeking a new kidney from a live donor. “You will be blessed by God,” she tells would-be donors in a message at MatchingDonors.

Michael Wharton, 24, of Fort Collins, Colo., said he, too, needs a kidney because he “wants to be 24 again.”

Kianna Yang of St. Paul, Minn., said she needs a Type O-positive kidney, and Herb Greenfield of New York City said he needs a kidney “desperately.” Along with their heartfelt pleas, patients typically post their blood type and a brief personal history.

MatchingDonors charges a $595 lifetime fee for those seeking donor kidneys.

Mr. Dooley acknowledged “there was initially resistance by doctors and hospitals” to the idea of performing organ transplants arranged over the Internet. In fact, he said, MatchingDonors’ first transplant had to be postponed and moved to another hospital, when a Colorado surgeon backed out over the Internet connection.

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