Giving the gift of health in 2014

kidneys dec. 2013

Dr. Robert Harland of the Brody School of Medicine, center, poses with participants in the kidney donor exchange, left to right, Sherrie Hoopes of Jacksonville, Leslie Smith of Bevinsville, Ky., Jamaal Peele and his mother, Brenda Peele, both of Greenville, during a press event Dec. 30 at Vidant Medical Center. Photo by Jeannine Manning Hutson

The new year often brings resolutions for better health. Losing weight or eating healthy foods may be No. 1 on many lists, but organ donation can be another way to make a difference.

A four-person kidney transplant in Greenville has given two people hope in the new year and two more the satisfaction of knowing they helped save a life.

Physicians from the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University and a local private practice participated in the transplants, which took place Dec. 16 at Vidant Medical Center.

Dr. Robert Harland, professor and chief of surgical immunology and transplantation at ECU and chief of transplant surgery at VMC, said the procedures were successful and allowed two of the hospital’s wait list patients to receive living donor kidneys instead of potentially waiting years for a kidney from a deceased donor.

Jamal Peele of Greenville and Leslie Smith of Bevinsville, Ky., each had planned to donate one of their healthy kidneys to relatives, but were not good matches. They were good matches, however, for each other’s relatives.

Thus, Peele donated to Smith’s aunt, Sherrie Hoopes of Jacksonville. Smith donated to Peele’s mother, Brenda Peele of Greenville.

The donors met the recipients for the first time Dec. 30 and all are doing well. Both donors underwent their procedures laparoscopically, which requires smaller incisions and often results in a quicker recovery and shorter hospital stay. The recipients are off dialysis and have normal kidney function.

The kidney exchange was the second performed by the transplant program at ECU and VMC, following a six-person exchange in 2011. Harland estimates that about 500 paired exchange kidney transplants were performed in the United States in 2013, representing fewer than 10 percent of the approximately 6,000 living donor kidney transplants performed. However, this transplant option has seen rapid growth over the past five years. The first paired kidney exchanges were performed in the United States in 2000.

In addition to maintaining an internal paired exchange list, patients listed at VMC have the option of being listed for a nationwide exchange list.

More than 434 eastern North Carolinians are awaiting a kidney transplant at VMC, according to according to Jennifer Thompson, transplant coordinator with Vidant Health. In 2013, doctors performed 94 kidney transplants, up from 88 in 2012.

The typical length of time between joining the Vidant/ECU waiting list and receiving a transplant is between 36 and 60 months, Thompson said.

Thompson estimated more than 3,000 people are on dialysis in the 29-county area served by Vidant Health.

Clearly there is a need for more organ donors. Several observances related to organ donation kick off next month. Feb. 14 is National Donor Day, March is National Kidney Month and March 14 is World Kidney Day. April is Donate Life Month. Click the links to learn more.

In addition to Harland, the following experts were involved in the kidney transplant last month:

–Dr. Claire Morgan (ECU Physicians)

–Dr. Carl Haisch (ECU Physicians)

–Dr. Reginald Obi (ECU Physicians)

–Dr. Heather Jones (Eastern Nephrology Associates)

–Dr. Kristel McLawhorn (Eastern Nephrology Associates)

–Dr. Scott Kendrick (Eastern Nephrology Associates)

–Dr. Lorita Rebellato (ECU associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine director of histocompatibility lab)

For more information about kidney transplants at ECU and VMC, call 252-744-2620.