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Houston Methodist Hospital completes 6-way kidney swap

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HOUSTON – A kidney swap is a procedure in which a loved one of a kidney transplant patient who is not compatible as a donor exchanges organs with another incompatible pair. This creates a circle of people exchanging organs they desperately need and getting them faster than waiting on a transplant list.

Click here for details from Houston Methodist.

Monday Houston Methodist Hospital confirmed they successfully coordinated the second largest kidney swap (to happen at one institution) in Texas.

It started with Dana Edson, a nurse from Kerrville, who wanted to donate a kidney to Mark Ridgaway. Her tests revealed she had the right makeup to be an acceptable match for Mark but it was best suited for another woman.

Methodist Hospital gave Edson the choice to donate to Ridgaway or become part of a swap that would give her kidney to someone else, who had a partner that could give it to someone else, and long story short, it saved six lives.

The complexity of matching this many people is almost impossible.

“Because of the HLA types, the ABO types and the antibody types, you couldn't do any more than three by hand,” said Dr. Osama Gaber, director of Houston Methodist J.C. Walter Jr. Transplant Center. “To do six, seven, eight or 50, you have to do it through a computer system.”

Methodist planned and arranged for the swap over two full months and scheduled surgeries to happen on two days.

Monday morning, all 12 patients sat alongside each other when the recipients opened envelopes revealing their donor.

When they opened the envelopes, the room filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Everything the patients could not say in words was made possible because of six selfless acts that started with one stranger who saw the big picture.

“God allowed me to be just a little bitty part of this huge miracle that's happening and I only intended to help Mark,” Edson said.

“People are great. The ability of human beings to help each other just sort of restores faith in everybody who thinks we are not very good people because I look around me and this is amazing,” Dr. Gaber said.