Best buddies: Paired Organ Donation Saves Ed Leerdam's Life

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Ed Leerdam, who lives with his wife Maria in Orlando, has polycystic kidney disease, an inherited disorder in which clusters of cysts develop primarily within your kidneys. Common complications include high blood pressure and kidney failure. Ed received his first kidney transplant from a deceased donor in 1989. His kidney lasted for 25 years.

In May 2014, he found out he needed to have another transplant. Perhaps, one of his five children would be a match. But none of them were eligible to donate. His 21-year-old twins have the possibility of inheriting the disease, so he didn't feel comfortable letting them do this, his oldest son couldn't donate because his body has an antigen that likely would cause Ed's body to reject the kidney and another daughter was ruled out because she has polycystic fibrosis.

Ed's friend Roy Baden immediately stepped up to offer a kidney, but it turned out Ed had an antibody against one of Roys HLA proteins, says Bobby Nibhanupudy, MD, medical director, AdventHealth Transplant Institute.

HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigens) proteins play an important role in your immune systems defense against invaders such as bacteria, viruses and parasites.

For organ transplants, when a donors HLA is different from the recipients, the immune system of the recipient will recognize the donors HLA antigens as foreign. This causes rejection of the transplanted organ.

Roy called Ed's wife Maria around that time. She told Roy about the Paired Donation program, a way to swap donors who are incompatible.

When a potential recipient has somebody, whether its a family member or friend, who wants to donate a kidney but is incompatible, we can put that pair into a database and look for similar pairs, Dr. Nibhanupudy explains. The computer program finds optimal donors for recipients and the different pairs will swap donors with each other.

Roy decided to see if he could be part of a paired donation. During the process, which lasted about six months, Ed became sicker and spent several weeks in the hospital.

He was close to moving out of the window of opportunity to have a transplant, Dr. Nibhanupudy explains. He almost reached the point where he would not have been able to tolerate a transplant.

By the end of December, however, they found somebody. Ed donated his kidney to someone in Minnesota and Ed received a kidney from someone in Minnesota.

Dr. Nibhanupudy says the nice thing about a living donation is its a normal kidney. On average, it lasts about five years longer than a cadaver kidney. In addition, it usually takes about two months to coordinate blood tests and such with a living donor kidney. With a cadaver kidney the patient has to go on a wait list, where the average wait time is about three to five years.

When it comes to making an organ donation, a lot of people still think a donor has to be a blood relative. It really isn't true, says Dr. Nibhanupudy. If you take a cadaver donor kidney where all HLA proteins match the recipient and compare it to the living donor kidney, that will still last longer. Having a healthy kidney that is taken out and put in so quickly gives you the best chance at longevity. A living donation will last longer regardless if its a blood relative or complete stranger.

Needless to say, with the number of organs available for transplantation worldwide at a shortage and the number of people requiring transplants on the rise, Dr. Nibhanupudy encourages people to sign up at their Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and tell family members that you want to be a donor, so we can recycle organs and save lives instead of letting good organs go.

You can also sign up online at Donate Life Florida.

Today, both Ed and Roy are doing well and enjoy fixing up old cars together.

Last time we saw Roy, he was fantastic, says Dr. Nibhanupudy. I saw Ed in April during our annual picnic, and he looks great, too.

I'm glad I was a part of helping Ed enjoy life longer, says Roy. God was helping us through he whole thing.

Advantages of a living donation:

  • Having time to plan the surgery and ability to prepare in advance
  • Living donor transplants, on average, last twice as long as a deceased donor transplant. This is due to many factors, including the donor being healthy and the kidney having less time out of the body, which increases the chances of it working right away.

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