Press Releases

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg participates in Living Donor Paired Chain Exchange

2 living donor chains, 18 Operations, 5 Provinces and about 65 hours of Surgery = 9 New Kidneys for Patients on National Waitlist

Nine Canadians who spent hours - often several times a week - on dialysis to manage their disease are now at home and healthy following an intricate surgical plan that matched them with donors they have never met.

Each was on the receiving end of a link in a 'living donor chain' that saw relatives of the recipients each donating one of their kidneys to a complete stranger in a 'pay it forward' type of arrangement.

The two living donor chains took place over three days in February at hospitals in five different provinces. Many of the recipients had already been waiting for a deceased donor for years and all were potentially facing many more years on the waitlist and on dialysis.

Eight of the 18 surgeries took place at HSC. Six Manitobans were part of the chains - three received a kidney and a relative of each of theirs donated one to someone else on the chain. They were unable to donate to their own relative because incompatible blood types or antibodies meant they weren't a match.

Dr. Peter Nickerson, Executive Medical Director, Organs and Tissues, Canadian Blood Services explained the chains would not have been possible had it not been for two 'Good Samaritan' donors. They were two anonymous members of the public who offered to donate a kidney for purely altruistic reasons - they didn't have a relative on the kidney wait list.

"Much of the success of the Living Donor Paired Exchange (LDPE) can be attributed to the participation of all provinces, but also the selflessness of non-directed anonymous donors (NDADs) who have made domino exchanges possible which account for close to 70 per cent of the transplants to date," says Nickerson.

Dr. Nickerson noted that currently there are more than 4,000 Canadians waiting for a life-saving organ donation. "Every day and a half one of them dies," he said. "Not only do transplants improve and save lives, estimates suggest the net cost benefit of a kidney transplant over dialysis is about $50,000 per patient per year."

Dr. Brock Wright, Sr. Vice President and Chief Medical Officer for the Winnipeg Health Region, noted that without the efforts of Dr. Nickerson - who is also a Winnipeg transplant nephrologist - and Canadian Blood Services there would have been no way to match the patients with donors in these types of chains.

"Dr. Nickerson and Canadian Blood Services led the effort nationally to create the LDPE registry," Dr. Wright said. "He recognized how a national electronic registry could reduce the number of people on the wait list. To date, more than 120 Canadians - including the nine here - have had a successful transplant because of it."

"There were nine of us who got kidneys," says one of the recipients. "There were anonymous donors who were not donating kidneys to someone in their family. I may have got a kidney from someone who did this simply out of the kindness of their heart."

The donors say they're thrilled; their decision to donate ended up with a total of nine patients getting new kidneys instead of just the one they were originally trying to help - their own relative.

The donors have a clear perspective. "It came down to personal choice," one says. "The outcome is tremendous. I gave someone the chance to live a stronger, healthier, longer life."

"I would like to congratulate and praise the donors and their families for their incredible selflessness and generosity.  The Living Donor Paired Chain Exchange is giving recipients a new lease on life," said Health Minister Theresa Oswald.  "I also want to congratulate the doctors and health care team here in Manitoba and across Canada for their skill and expertise in making the exchange a success."

Dr. David Rush, Medical Director Transplant Manitoba, said the experience of participating in the two chains was exciting for all members of the health care team.

"We all feel privileged to have been part of this important experience for Manitoba."

Manitoba's kidney transplant statistics are available at

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