Paired Kidney Exchange Saved His Life

Paired Kidney Exchange Saved His Life

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Kenneth Hunter and Melissa GibsonAt first, the signs were subtle. Kenneth Hunter noticed he was always tired and felt nauseated frequently. He had been diagnosed with stage 2 kidney disease in 2013 and his condition had remained fairly stable for several years, but these new symptoms were a sign that his kidneys were failing.

Routine blood work at a nephrologist appointment indicated his kidney function tests were abnormally high. The tests were repeated the next day, with the same results. “My doctor told me to go the ER immediately because my kidneys had failed,” Kenneth remembers. “It was a shock.”

He started dialysis and began his search for a kidney donor. A MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute social worker suggested he use his social networks to expand the search. He was surprised when he got an email from Melissa Gibson, a former co-worker, saying she’d be willing to donate one of her kidneys. 

“I’m a recovering alcoholic and as part of my recovery I wanted to give back. This was a chance to give life. I had no hesitation,” explains Melissa.

Melissa went to the Transplant Institute and was evaluated. “When I called Ken to tell him I was compatible and had a healthy kidney, I could hear the relief in his voice,” adds Melissa.

Although Melissa was a match, the pair was offered another opportunity. The kidney transplant program coordinator suggested that Kenneth consider a compatible paired kidney exchange. Melissa and Kenneth agreed to this plan knowing that Kenneth would still get a great living donor kidney, and their participation would allow several other people to get transplants as well.

Kenneth’s transplant was a complete success. “I have so much more energy. My wife even said I look better now than when we first met,” Kenneth says.

“Melissa has a great heart,” adds Kenneth. “She’s my hero.”

If you would like to speak with a team member about living donation, please call 202-444-3714. To begin the process of becoming a living kidney donor, please click here to complete the donor questionnaire.

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