JoAnn and William Breckenridge, first international paired kidney donor.
You’ve probably heard of chain e-mails connecting you to strangers, but a local woman credits a kidney chain for saving her life. WDRB’s Jennifer Baileys explains how not finding a match here at home allowed JoAnne Breckenridge to help save others across the country.
The proposition is called a paired donation and is an alternative for those willing to donate to a loved one but unable to do so. Both the donor and recipients are put into a database and matched with a stranger.
In the Elizabethtown couple’s case, their donation cycle indirectly reaches to Greece, and was one of the United States’ first international swaps.
JoAnn was told by doctors in 2010 both her kidneys were failing because of high blood pressure, and she needed a transplant.
For a period of more than a year that she was on a waiting list for a kidney, JoAnn had to self-administer nightly dialysis in her home.
“I was getting frustrated because I figured nobody would help me,” she said. “I kept on doing dialysis, kept on praying, and tried to keep my spirits up.”
JoAnn had exhausted all other known live donor sources. None of her family members were compatible and her husband had to lose 30 pounds before he could be tested. Even when he did, he was told his kidney wasn’t a match.
This is why the paired donation was a good option for the couple.
“Well, she needed one,” William said. “And I was willing to give up one.”
Additionally, a live kidney donation lasts twice as long as a deceased donation.
While the paired donation program tries to schedule couple surgeries at the same time, circumstances did not allow simultaneous operations. JoAnn received a kidney from Pennsylvania on April 19 and William donated one to a patient in California on May 1. Both underwent surgery at Jewish Hospital in Louisville.