A Match Made in Medicine

Finding a living kidney donor is a godsend for patients on dialysis. A donor who’s a match (in blood type) is even more precious. Berch Harris was fortunate enough to find both—in his wife, Vallerie Armstrong, whom he’d met at a hemodialysis center. I write about their courtship, marriage, and putting to the test the vows “in sickness and in health” in a recent issue of Surgical Solutions for the Department of Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University.

I was also intrigued by what transplant surgeon Dr. Ramirez explained as the intricate logistics involved  in matching donors with recipients, especially if a patient’s loved one is willing to donate, but is not a match; it turns out that, since he/she could be a match for someone else, this could guarantee a kidney that is a match, and circumvent what could be a long wait on the transplant list. Jefferson is now part of an elaborate national network that orchestrates “paired kidney donation.” This can involved multiple pairs, and requires many operating rooms and organs transported—all of which needs to happen within a matter of hours.

At a time when it seems we’re scrambling to repair and protect ourselves from human error on all fronts, it’s heartening to read about medicine getting it right and making all the difference in people’s lives.

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