Herman “JB” Brown, 50, of Arlington, was transplanted with a “payback” kidney in April 2017. The kidney became available because of a kidney swap chain started at Medical City Fort Worth by “Good Samaritan” living kidney donor Brooke Reeves.
Reeves, a 47-year-old Fort Worth mother of five children and grandmother of ten, helped three people get a kidney transplant. Her altruistic kidney donation to a stranger enabled Medical City Fort Worth’s Transplant Institute and the National Kidney Registry (NKR) to complete a paired kidney exchange (PKE), or kidney swap chain.
Reeves says she began thinking about becoming a living kidney donor after her mother was killed in a car accident in 2015. She said her decision to donate a kidney to a stranger “brings honor to my mother and to God, who just put this whole thing together. I’m just happy I could help somebody.”
Brown says he had an army of friends praying for him through a Facebook group. He even got on Facebook live from the hospital – not long after surgery – to provide an update about the successful surgery.
“I just thank God for organ donors like Brooke. God laid it on her heart to start this chain, and it’s amazing – it’s unexplainable. That’s why I tell people that God is real,” Brown says. “You just need to have faith and believe that everything that you prayed for and asked God for is coming. I want to thank the transplant team and the doctors here for the awesome job they have done. I’m praying for them and their continued success.”
Medical City Fort Worth’s Transplant Institute is one of only three transplant centers in Texas – and the only one in the DFW area – that work with the National Kidney Registry (NKR) to organize kidney swap chains started by altruistic donors like Reeves, according to Joe Sinacore, NKR’s director of education and development.
“A single chain starts with one Good Samaritan donor who wishes to donate to a stranger, after being worked up by a hospital to see if they would be a good donor,” Sinacore said. “After the initial altruistic donation, the donor/recipient pairs keep ‘paying it forward’ until you get to a wait list patient at the end of the chain. That’s when the transplant center where the chain began – in this case, Medical City Fort Worth – gets to offer a kidney to another patient on their wait list (“payback kidney). There’s a lot of coordination involved between NKR and our partner hospitals to match the various donor and recipient pairs in our database.”
A paired kidney exchange works this way: Many patients in need of a kidney have family members or friends willing to donate. But a patient and a potential donor must go through a series of tests (including blood typing, tissue typing, and serum cross-match) to determine whether they're a good match and whether the transplant will be successful. Sometimes a patient has a willing donor who is not an acceptable match. For example, a mother wants to donate a kidney to her child, but she’s not a match. The child might still get a kidney through a transplant chain. The child could receive a kidney from an altruistic donor like Reeves, who is matched through the NKR database. Then, the mother would donate her kidney to a stranger in the NRK database who is a match. That stranger’s brother might then donate to another stranger in need, and so on – all matched through the database. Transplant centers like Medical City Fort Worth, with the help of NKR, can link up numerous non-matching pairs of patients and willing donors, then shuffle around the available kidneys so that all the recipients end up with the organ that's the best fit for them, regardless of their relationship with the donor.
In 2015, Medical City Fort Worth was part of the largest kidney swap in U.S. history, which involved 70 recipients and donors across the nation.
For information about organ donation and transplantation at Medical City Fort Worth’s Transplant Institute, phone 817-834-8500 or email to kidney.referral@medicalcityhealth or firstname.lastname@example.org.