Officer's Kidney Is Saving Two Lives E-mail
Written by Mark Nichols   
In what can only be described as a massive kidney swap, highly skilled surgeons recently performed 26 operations on people in desperate need. The first of a kind organ exchange was the brainchild of a quick-thinking organ transplant expert and pulled off thanks to big-hearted donors like Police Officer Tom Otten.

Otten took part in the recent record-setting kidney swap in the nation's capital that was part of a major push to get transplants to patients who might not usually qualify. When it was over, all 13 people hoping and praying for a second chance had received lifesaving kidneys, according to a news story by the Associated Press.

"A whole new doorway of hope opened," Tom Otten, a police officer from suburban St. Louis, told reporters from the Associated Press. Otten gave a kidney to a stranger last December so his wife could get one in return.

The 13-way kidney swap began when Otten's wife, Irene, was unable to find a suitable donor. Tests had shown that she couldn't tolerate a kidney from 95 percent of the population, according to the Associated Press.

And another 30-year-old mother in Washington, Roxanne Boyd Williams, faced similar odds in terms of finding a match. So Georgetown University Hospital's kidney transplant director, Dr. Keith Melancon, came up with a stroke of genius. If both Williams and Irene Otten could get a near-perfect donor kidney - meaning a kidney that just a few of their immune system's elevated antibodies recognized - then he could filter from their blood a sufficient quantity of the remaining antibodies so that the new kidney would survive.

As it turned out, Tom Otten could donate a kidney to Williams because he was close to perfect match. Then Irene Otten found a match in another young woman.

When Williams' father agreed to donate, another impossible-to-match grandmother had found her match, and on and on it went.

Of the 13 patients who received transplants in operations at Georgetown and nearby Washington Hospital Center, five got kidneys only because of the blood filtering procedure, according to the Associated press article.

Ten were Hispanic, black or Asian, which is significant. Minorities are less likely than white Americans to get a kidney transplant from a living donor, which is considered the best kind.

Fewer than 17,000 kidney transplants are performed annually, and there is an average five-year wait for a kidney.

For a patient like Williams, the transplant could be a way for her to get her life as a mom back.

Doctors say that as she improves, she might have the energy to care for her 2-year-old twins and 7-month-old baby.

She needed a transplant because she came down with lupus while in college and it basically destroyed her kidneys. Williams, who had received a kidney from her sister that failed in her second pregnancy, met Tom Otten a week after this most recent surgery.

"It's a large gift to give someone, something so selfless," she said as she held his hand. "God bless you."

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