Nationwide organ share program takes off in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - They call it "kidney swap." It's a nationwide system to trade organs and it's growing in popularity right here in Kansas City.

A retired army Lt. Col., Scott Porter, was nearly on the operating table for a kidney transplant last year when things took a last-minute turn.

He has a different battle he's been fighting for nearly two years after losing the use of both of his kidneys.

He is now a civilian teacher at Ft. Leavenworth and loves his job, so much so that he learned how to hook himself up to a dialysis machine, which he uses nine hours a night.

We covered his story last fall when a military colleague, Lt. Col. Beth Ward, tried to donate her kidney.

Doctor Bruce Kaplan, a kidney and pancreas transplant expert at the University of Kansas Hospital, pulled the plug days before because Porter's antibodies were too high.

"I am very hard to match because of my antibodies and that's why I haven't been able to match with a lot of people, up to about 30 people," Porter said.

His wife Cheryl was the first one on the list trying to donate her kidney but she wasn’t a match; neither were those 30 other people who have tried. Now Cheryl has a way to help after all.

"It's a very big deal," Dr. Kaplan said.

The pair is now part of the national kidney exchange. His wife will donate a kidney to anyone around the country that matches her husband. That person will then donate to him and everyone gets what they need.

The concept’s genesis was in the beta testing phase for the past few years in Toledo, Ohio. The University of Kansas Hospital just signed up to be a part of the program in March.

Now there are a handful of people on the list, including Porter’s wife.

"You are in a pool of other live donors, so the donors are right there and it's just a matter of trying to have an algorithm that matches compatibility," Kaplan said.

Doctors say a live organ is 90 percent more likely to be a successful transplant.

Porter said the wait is manageable and knows how special he is to have a wife like Cheryl.

"We have been married 31 years now so it doesn't surprise me. That's her character to do that," Porter said.

The national registry checks the system for kidneys every Monday morning. We plan to follow Porter's progress and let you know if this works for him.

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