UC Davis Donor Reunion

Donors and recipients in four-way “domino” kidney transplant meet for first time

Transplant patients and donors © UC Regents
Participants in a unique series of kidney transplants at UC Davis Medical Center met for the first time in March. From left to right are Eduard Samuylik, Lyudmila Bratan, Shawn Klein, Alan Klein, Armando Morales, Sandra Morales and Maribel Butts.

Posted April 28, 2010

Donors and recipients who participated in a four-way “domino” kidney transplant at UC Davis Medical Center had the opportunity to meet one another for the first time at a celebration held in March on the Sacramento campus of UC Davis.

The transplant surgeries were made possible using a revolutionary approach known as paired exchange – an option for recipients whose donors have incompatible blood or tissue types. The incompatible donor-recipient pairs are matched with other pairs, and they exchange donors.

“I’ve been on the waiting list for five years. … You saved my life and I just have to say thank you.”
— Patient Maribel Butts to her kidney donor, Sandra Morales

Seven of the eight participants, whose surgeries occurred over a 36-hour period Feb. 22-23, returned to UC Davis to attend the celebration. The process of coordinating their exchanges involved more than 30 health-care professionals, including surgeons, nephrologists, anesthesiologists, operating room staff, nurses and a strong network of administrative support personnel.

The reunion presented donors, recipients, friends, family members and the transplant team with the chance to meet and share their stories, their experiences and, most importantly, their gratitude.

Becoming a living kidney donor

Living donation is the process of removing a kidney from a healthy individual in order to transplant it into a related or unrelated person with kidney failure. Often described as “the gift of life,” organ donations free recipients from dialysis and allow them to enjoy longer, fuller lives. All potential living donors are screened and evaluated following a process established by the national United Network for Organ Sharing, which ensures the donor’s well being and willingness to donate. For more information about becoming a living donor, visit the UC Davis Transplant Center website.

Sandra (donor) and Armando (recipient) Morales attended with several of their children and grandchildren; Alan (donor) and Shawn Klein (recipient), the only siblings who participated in the transplants, attended together; and Lyudmila Bratan (donor) and her husband Eduard Samuylik (recipient) attended with their two children. The room was packed with friends, staff and cameras from Sacramento television stations, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

transplant donors © UC Regents
Maribel Butts (far right) expresses her gratitude to Sandra Morales for her kidney donation.

When Maribel Butts met her donor, Sandra Morales, she was overcome with emotion.

“I’ve been on the waiting list for five years,” Butts said, speaking through her tears. “You saved my life and I just have to say thank you.”

Armando Morales, who received a kidney from Alan Klein, gave his donor a big hug and a grateful smile. When Shawn Klein met Luda Bratan, the shyness of strangers meeting for the first time melted away with a meaningful embrace and a few tears. Eduard Samuylik could not meet his donor, who chose to remain anonymous, but it was the generosity of this altruistic donor that made the multiple transplants possible.

“I understand why my donor wants to remain anonymous,” he said through happy tears. “But I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for saving my life.”

© 2012 UC Regents. All Rights Reserved

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