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(Above: James Eason, M.D., and Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy at news conference in May, a few days after Mulroy underwent surgery for an altruistic kidney donation.)
According to the National Kidney Registry, the successful completion of Chain 221, the second largest kidney swap in history and the largest swap to be concluded in under forty days, began with an altruistic donation at Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute by Shelby County Commissioner and law professor Steven Mulroy. Chain 221 involved 56 participants and 19 transplant centers. The Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute operates in partnership with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.
The speed of chain 221 illustrates the enormous progress that’s been made with respect to process improvements that radically shorten setup times for large swaps, reducing the time patients wait for a kidney transplant. Whereas last year’s record-setting swap took six months to complete, chain 221 took only five weeks to finish. Large swaps also increase the ability to find matches for the most highly sensitized patients who have exceptionally high antibody levels that react to foreign tissue. Sensitized patients Chain 221 facilitated transplants for 10 patients who were extremely hard to match.
“It is extremely gratifying that our transplant institute was able to start this amazing chain of kidney swaps with the help of an altruistic donor,” said Vinaya Rao, M.D., medical director for kidney transplants at Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute. “One of my patients, a 28-year-old who had been on dialysis for eight years, had almost given up hope of receiving a kidney due to incompatibility issues. With the altruistic donation, she became eligible to receive a compatible living donor kidney and that is very exciting.”
Mulroy, the Good Samaritan donor who initiated chain 221, said, “Once you realize that this is a way to save a life and possibly many other lives without any real permanent sacrifice on my part, it seems like not only a no-brainer, but a moral imperative.”
When he learned the vast number of patients transplanted from the chain he started, Mulroy reflected, “I couldn’t be more gratified to know that I’m helping so many people around the country and illustrating the multiplier effects of altruistic donation in such an impactful way.”