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Posted at 2:51 PM ET, 06/16/2010

28-person kidney exchange marked in D.C.

By Mike McPhate
Regina Harvey, left, of Temple Hills, received a kidney from Rosanna Trenkle, of Fountain Valley, Calif. (Courtesy of Washington Hospital Center)

A group of organ donors and their recipients gathered in Washington Tuesday to celebrate what doctors called the largest ever kidney exchange.

Fourteen donors gave their kidneys to patients in operations performed between May 26 and June 12 at four D.C.-area hospitals: Georgetown University Hospital, Washington Hospital Center, Children's National Medical Center and Inova Fairfax Hospital.

The group met for the first time in an emotional gathering at Washington Hospital Center.

β€œIt’s nice to know that there are still decent people left in the world,” kidney recipient Jeffrey Tucker, 50, told reporters at the gathering.

Transplant chains are created when each donor agrees to give their kidney to a stranger so that a loved one can get a kidney from someone else. (See a chart explaining the logistics).

The domino-like series of exchanges was kicked off May 26 after the unexpected death of a 24-year-old Florida woman Jennifer Whitford, whose mother made the decision to donate her organs.

"If my daughter's organs can help others, that gives me incredible comfort," Whitford's mother, Denise Milliken, said in a statement.

Doctors heralded the success in overcoming such a complex logistical challenge.

"This particular exchange is a beautiful example of how we need more donors of all kinds and how the different types of donors can come together and make this wonderful life-saving chain," said Keith Melancon, director of the kidney program at Georgetown University Hospital.

VIDEO: Watch the press conference video
CHART: Meet the donors, recipients (pdf)
EARLIER: 8-way chain of surgeries involving Johns Hopkins

-- Mike McPhate

By Mike McPhate  | June 16, 2010; 2:51 PM ET
Categories:  DC  | Tags:  health, washington  
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Your story about the 28-person Kidney Exchange highlighted the tragic shortage of human organs for transplant operations.

There are now over 108,000 people on the National Transplant Waiting List, with over 50% of these people dying before they get a transplant. Most of these deaths are needless. Americans bury or cremate 20,000 transplantable organs every year.

There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ shortage – give donated organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die.

Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. People who aren't willing to share the gift of life should go to the back of the waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs.

Anyone who wants to donate their organs to others who have agreed to donate theirs can join LifeSharers. LifeSharers is a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition. LifeSharers has over 13,900 members at this writing, including 33 members in Washington D.C.

Please contact me - Dave Undis, Executive Director of LifeSharers - if your readers would like to learn more about our innovative approach to increasing the number of organ donors. I can arrange interviews with some of our local members if you're interested. My email address is My phone number is 615-351-8622.

Posted by: dave65 | June 17, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

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