The Magic of Kidney Swaps

January 16, 2020

Kidney Swap

At a recent speaking event, an audience member mentioned she decided to be a donor for a friend, but unfortunately, she wasn’t a match. I asked her if she had considered a paired kidney exchange, also known as a “Kidney Swap.” Sadly, she had never heard of it.

A kidney swap occurs when one donor is incompatible with their recipient but is compatible with another and vice versa.

When someone is on dialysis and needs a life-saving kidney they wait on one of two things—for a person to die who’s an organ donor, which could take years, or a living donor to donate a kidney selflessly. But, more than not, the angel willing to give may be incompatible because of blood type or proteins in the donor’s blood that could cause a rejection in the recipient. And, that’s where the magic of a computer algorithm’s come in.



The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network created a Kidney Paired Donation program that matches donor/recipient pairs through computer algorithms. These programs find the best medical matches based on those who sign up.

In 2015, one of the largest kidney swap chains was completed at the UW hospital in Madison, WI, through the National Kidney Registry’s paired kidney exchange program. The chain included 68 people—34 donors, and 34 recipients.

I’m always amazed by what smart people together with technology can do!

Meet Beth Badour

Beth has Polycystic Kidney Disease, or PKD, or PKD, and to look at her, you could never tell she lives with 2% kidney function. She’s active and full of spunk but attends dialysis three times a week for four hours each time. As a result, she’s on disability but is otherwise healthy.

Beth needs a kidney angel to help her. She’s had several people display interest in donating, but for one reason or another was not a match. But, with the kidney swap program, she has hope.

If you’re interested in getting tested, call Atrium Health Transplant Clinic at 704-355-6649 to speak with a transplant coordinator. Or, contact Beth directly at 704-996-5414.

If you’re not a match, make sure to mention interest in the Paired Kidney Exchange program. You could help save many lives with one selfless gesture.

Here’s to all the Kidney Angels!

Also, if you’d like to help Beth find her Kidney Angel, please consider donating to her Go Fund Me page. The money raised helps to pay for her kidney transplant. 


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