After Suzanne Waters-Sund learned that her 62-year-old brother, Doug Waters, needed a kidney transplant in August 2013, she volunteered to be a possible donor.
Medical testing, however, indicated they were not compatible.
Sund was then asked if she would be willing to participate in the paired kidney exchange program.
Initially, her response was, “If I cannot donate directly to my brother, at age 73, I am not going to put myself through surgery.”
Then her brother called to explain that he would bypass thousands of people on a waiting list for a kidney if he had a paired kidney exchange partner.
The UW Health Transplant Program in Madison works with about 50 clinics nationwide in a kidney exchange program. It allows patients who have an incompatible but willing donor to receive a kidney transplant from another living donor.
The exchange program expands the donor pool and significantly increases the odds of finding a compatible donor for an individual patient.
As new donors and recipients are listed, the kidney exchange program is able to match them with other donors and recipients who may be compatible.
After a donor-recipient pair is matched, the donor can donate a kidney to a compatible recipient while their intended recipient receives a compatible kidney from someone else.
After learning about the program, Sund said she decided “to go as far as the Lord would take me.”
Eleven months later, Sund received a call from University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison.
Doctors had found a kidney for her brother and a recipient for her. She was told her surgery was scheduled for July 24.
Sund cleared her calendar for the next few weeks, then went through further testing on July 23.
In this particular paired kidney exchange there would be five donors and five recipients. The surgeries would take place on the same day in different parts of the country.
All five donors would give their kidneys in the morning and all five recipients would receive their kidneys within 24 to 36 hours.
The siblings were both at the UW Hospital in Madison and ended up across the hall from each other during their three-day stay.
Sund learned later that her recipient was at the same hospital and on the same ward post surgery for those three days.
All are now seven weeks post surgery.
Sund has received a note from her recipient through the coordinator at UW Hospital.
“He is doing well and very happy to be off dialysis,” she said. “This has been an amazing feat.”
She encouraged others to go online and look into the paired kidney exchange program at UW Hospital. She also said those who are interested in more information could email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.