Living Kidney Donation: The Selfless Gift That Keeps on Giving



UC Health Kidney Transplant Team

 

“It’s not the kind of journey you really want to take, but I’m still here to talk about it.”

And when Ross Township Police Chief Darryl Haussler talks about the living kidney transplant he received at University of Cincinnati Medical Center last October, he is upbeat, beyond thankful, and still a bit awestruck.

“I have been so blessed the last three years. God has had his hand in this, and he has orchestrated everything. It has worked out great,” he says. “It went off without a hitch.”

In May 2016, Haussler was diagnosed with scleroderma, an incurable, chronic connective tissue disease typically affecting the skin, but sometimes harming blood vessels, internal organs and the digestive tract. During a procedure performed to relieve fluid around his heart, Haussler went into renal crisis due, in part, to the scleroderma.  Doctors at another hospital gave his kidneys three weeks to kick back in on their own. But they didn’t. Haussler then underwent 22 months of dialysis, a treatment that takes over for one’s own kidneys when they can no longer function properly. He eventually qualified to be placed on the kidney transplant list.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Haussler and his wife, Debbie, her co-worker, Maria Wessel, had been tested and proved to be a positive match as a living kidney donor for him. Wessel eventually revealed the good news to the Hausslers after church one Sunday morning.

“We were absolutely shocked,” Haussler recalls. And forever grateful, not only for Wessel’s selfless gift of a kidney, but the physicians and surgeons at UC Health.

“I received such good care at UC Health,” Haussler says. “With the exception of my primary care physicians, all my doctors are UC Health doctors.”

 

A Comprehensive Organ Transplant Program

Of the 183 kidney only, or kidney/pancreas, transplants performed at UC Medical Center in 2018, 53 involved living kidney donors, notes Tayyab Diwan, M.D., associate professor of surgery at UC College of Medicine in the division of transplantation surgery.

Only one donated kidney is needed to replace two failed kidneys, which makes living-donor kidney transplants an alternative to deceased-donor kidney transplant. And living donor kidneys typically last twice as long as deceased donor kidneys.

“It’s a wonderful gift living kidney donors are giving,” Diwan says.

According to recently released data from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), UC Health – which offers the region’s only comprehensive organ transplant program for adults – performed a record number of lifesaving transplant surgeries in 2018. Nearly 300 kidney, liver and heart transplants were performed at UC Medical Center, marking a 25 percent increase over 2017. Records were set in the number of liver and kidney transplants performed in one year, including a 40 percent increase in living kidney donor transplants.

UC Medical Center now ranks 16th in the nation among liver transplant centers and 40th in the nation among kidney transplant centers for the number of transplants performed. According to UNOS, the ranking is a measure of a transplant program’s strength and success along with other measures, such as patient outcomes and academic research. The increase in volume of transplants performed at UC Medical Center, UC Health officials note, is due to operational improvements, increased outreach to referring physicians and, perhaps most importantly, increased awareness of the need for organ donation.

“We had a record number of donors step forward at the end of the year, so what the increasing number of kidney transplants means to us is, we had that many more opportunities and the privilege to help more people. That’s everyone’s focus here,” says Diwan, who has served as the director of UC’s Multi-organ Transplant Fellowship Program since 2012 and is involved in fellow education at the national level through the American Society of Transplant Surgery (ASTS). He is also credited with developing and initiating the only National Laparoscopic Donor Nephrectomy Workshop.

Diwan was named the 2018 Inspire Champion by The Health Collaborative (THC) for his work in educating youth and his integral role in the success of the TAP MD program, part of THC’s Healthcare Workforce initiative. Through that program, high-achieving high school juniors and seniors get the unique opportunity to “tap” into their talent and explore what it would be like to be a physician in today’s healthcare environment. For the last six years, Diwan has invited students into UC Medical Center to view kidney transplant surgeries firsthand.

“It’s all part of UC Health’s commitment to raising awareness of organ donation and transplantation – and, ultimately, helping more patients get transplanted,” Diwan says. “The kidney transplant team at UC Health has also substantially grown its patient outreach program over the past year, opening the door for more patients to access this life-saving care.”

 

 

For more information about UC Health’s Transplant program, visit www.uchealth.com/transplant.