One third of people in need of a kidney transplant will be blood type incompatible with their donor and even more will be incompatible because of harmful antibodies against their donor. Yet sometimes, one person’s incompatibility can be another’s blessing in disguise.
Take for example Gina Dosso and her sister Maria Dosso. Gina had kidney failure and was nearing dialysis. Her sister Maria decided that she would like to donate a kidney to her. Unfortunately, even though they were related, Gina’s blood had harmful antibodies that would have caused her body to reject Maria’s kidney. In fact, Gina’s blood had harmful antibodies to greater than 80% of the population making it very difficult to find her any compatible donor. But rather than give up, with the help of the Mount Sinai Kidney Transplant team, they were enlisted into the National Kidney Registry, an organization that helps incompatible people find other incompatible people to perform a kidney “swap” with.
At around the same time Steve Mulroy, County Commissioner and University of Memphis Law Professor, decided he wanted to be an altruistic donor – in other words donate a kidney to a person that he did not have an emotional connection with. Steve started a kidney donor domino chain with the National Kidney Registry and donated to a person with an incompatible donor whose incompatible donor then donated to another person with an incompatible donor. After nine people were transplanted a donor matched up almost perfectly with Gina, a donor that somehow Gina did not have any harmful antibodies against. Gina was safely transplanted without any complications and her sister kept the chain going by donating to the next person with an incompatible donor. The end result – 28 people transplanted – 3 transplants short of being the largest chain in history.
Thanks to one altruistic person 28 incompatibilities became 28 perfect matches. Although Maria could not donate directly to Gina, she enabled Gina to get safely transplanted, and was just the right donor to save another’s life – a blessing in disguise.
Vinay Nair, D.O.
Interim Medical Director, Kidney Transplantation