- Associated Press - Sunday, February 12, 2017

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - It was last fall when Christina Burnett picked up the phone to call Oviedo Police Officer Bobby Draughon.

Burnett, one of the two living donor transplant coordinators at Florida Hospital Transplant Institute, had found a match for Draughon’s kidney. All she needed now was a final “yes” from him.

Draughon had no idea that his decision would lead him to become part of an eight-person “paired kidney exchange.”

“We tell them you’re not able to donate to this person, but there’s the paired exchange program, where we put you guys into a computer database with other pairs in the same situation, and we try to find a match for both of you at the same time. So it’s an equal exchange,” Burnett said.

It’s a bit like the TV series “Wife Swap,” joked Dr. Bobby Nibhanupudy, one of the directors of abdominal and pancreas transplant programs at Florida Hospital.

Burnett and Draughon, 33, had been in contact for several months.

The tall, soft-spoken police officer had first sent in an application to donate a kidney to fellow law enforcement officer, Seminole County Deputy Blayne Badura, 45, whose kidneys were slowly succumbing to a form of kidney disease.

Draughon is the type who always wants to save people’s lives, his wife, Amanda, will tell you.

“I thought I’m healthy and this is something I can do,” Draughon said on Tuesday during a media event at Florida Hospital.

But when he learned that he wasn’t a match for Badura, he decided to be part of the paired kidney exchange.

“They said my kidney wouldn’t go to him, but it would ensure that he receives one in return (if I donated my kidney),” said Draughon. “So I said as long as he can get a kidney, that’s all that matters.”

To Burnett, his agreement meant “that everybody is going to get transplanted, and they’re going to get to donate. It’s awesome,” she said.

The first of this type of paired exchanges took place more than two decades ago, according to data from the federal Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Transplant center staff enter eligible donor and recipient medical information into the national organ sharing network, which then searches for cases where the donor in each pair is compatible with the recipient in another pair or pairs.

Paired organ exchanges aren’t as common as the better-known one-to-one organ donations, but the concept is growing, partly because of social media.

“It’s really getting bigger and bigger because people are learning about it,” Burnett said.

In 2016, there were 625 paired donations in the United States, the highest number ever recorded by the transplantation network.

Florida Hospital implemented its paired exchange program in 2008 and performed two paired exchanges last year, resulting in four transplants.

Experts say that paired kidney exchanges can help some patients find a matching organ quicker. Badura, for instance, could have been waiting for five or six years on the typical waiting list.

But the two law enforcement officers’ decision to participate in the paired kidney exchange program changed everything. Two weeks later, the Florida Hospital team had found Badura a match.

Badura’s donor turned out to be Lauren Gau of Winter Springs. She and her mother had decided to take part in the paired kidney exchange too because they weren’t a good match.

Gau’s mom, Leslie, had already received a kidney from an anonymous donor in the Midwest, who was also in the exchange program. That Midwest donor’s pair had received a kidney from another donor in the Southeast.

Now it was Gau’s turn to give a kidney in exchange for the one her mother had received.

That match turned out to be Badura.

In exchange, Draughon donated his kidney to someone in the Pacific Northwest. And that person’s donor is waiting to be matched.

This eight-person kidney exchange isn’t common because so many elements have to be aligned for it to happen, said Dr. Giridhar Vedula, a multi-organ abdominal transplant surgeon at Florida Hospital Transplant Institute.

It took Burnett and her colleague Sue Kerkhof several conference calls, reviews of medical records and conversations with surgeons and transplant centers to coordinate it all, but in the end, Draughon, Badura and Gau had their surgeries on the same January day this year.

And when everything is done and everyone’s OK, “it’s like wow,” said Kerkhof. “We see all the preparation that it takes and seeing all come together is my wow moment.”

Draughon is returning to work on Wednesday. He knew his recovery would be painful, especially at first, but he’s well now.

“I’m very happy with my decision. I couldn’t feel better. And to help more than one person at once is more than what I bargained for,” he said.

He had this one last thing to add: “Donating a kidney is life-altering, but it’s not going to change to quality of your life at all. It’s something that people should seriously consider,” he said.

___

Information from: Orlando Sentinel, https://www.orlandosentinel.com/


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide