TEAMWORK: From left, Kawai, Anne Seaward-Hersh, RN, transplant coordinator, Nichole Werger, RN, transplant coordinator, Michael, Candice, Tolkoff-Rubin, and Ko
Chain 124. That’s the name of a record-breaking kidney transplant chain. It took months to plan and execute, with the National Kidney Registry coordinating with hospitals from across the country. Thirty transplants later, 60 lives were changed – with two of the operations taking place at the MGH.
Special education teacher Candice Ryan, 56, of Berwick, Maine, was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease at age 16. She had her first successful kidney transplant at the MGH when she was 27 years old – on her husband Michael Ryan’s birthday. In the ensuing years, the couple had two children and lived normal lives. Nearly three decades later, however, Candice’s kidney began to fail. She needed another transplant.
Since polycystic kidney disease is hereditary, the couple’s children were excluded from donating to their mother. However, Michael, now 58, wanted to do what he could to help save his wife. The Ryans initially thought they were tissue-compatible, but when tests proved that wasn’t the case, Michael remained unwavering in his decision to donate. That’s when Nina Tolkoff-Rubin, MD, medical director of the MGH Kidney Transplant Program, recommended they be entered into the National Kidney Registry, which facilitates the matching of incompatible pairs for transplantation. Through the matching process, the Ryans were linked to other individuals of incompatible pairs, ultimately becoming numbers 34 and 35 in the 60-person chain.
HEALTHY AND HAPPY: Michael and Candice Ryan
On Dec. 5, 2011, Dicken Ko, MD, surgical director of Kidney Transplant Program at the MGH, performed Candice’s transplant operation using a live-donor kidney from Florida. Hours later, Tatsuo Kawai, MD, PhD, surgical director of the MGH Dialysis Access Program, laparoscopically removed one of Michael’s kidneys and shipped it to another hospital.
“Even though it’s a huge hospital, the staff at MGH feels like family to us. The doctors, nurses, and the administrative staff treated us very well,” said Michael. “We are proud to be a part of this chain. There are 30 people all over the country who are getting their lives back. I wish that I could give my other kidney up! It was that simple, it was that easy. And it makes such a difference.”
Read more articles from the 03/09/12 Hotline issue.