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YNHH performs CT's first eight-patient, paired kidney transplant exchange

With members of YNHH's transplantation teams at the press conference were kidney donors and recipients, front row (l-r): Patricia Menno-Coveney, David Rennie, Margaret Rennie, Raymond Murphy, Sylvie Murphy, Mario Garcia, Hilary Grant and Edward Brakoniecki

At a press conference on the state's first eight-patient kidney transplant exchange, which took place at Yale New Haven Hospital March 3, surgeons called the kidney donor who made the exchange possible a "hero."

But Patricia Menno-Coveney of Mystic, who donated her kidney without knowing who the recipient might be, was modest. "I just wanted to give a kidney to one person," she said. "But I'm delighted by the results."

Because of her altruistic donation, the Yale New Haven Transplantation Center was able to organize a chain of transplants with other donor-recipients, and four Connecticut residents received kidneys. The eight surgeries to remove and transplant the kidneys began at 7:30 am and ended just before 6 pm. Surgeons used minimally invasive, laparoscopic techniques that can reduce recovery time from six to eight weeks to as little as two to four weeks.

"All procedures were deemed a success," said David Mulligan, MD, director, Yale New Haven Transplantation Center, and professor of surgery (transplant) at Yale School of Medicine. "This series of living-donor kidney transplants represents the largest internal kidney transplant exchange performed in Connecticut."

Menno-Coveney had planned to donate a kidney to a friend, who became ineligible as a recipient. She stayed on the donor list and, using a computer program, staff with the Transplantation Center found she was a match for David Rennie of Shelton. The program also showed that Margaret Rennie, David's wife, could donate her kidney to Raymond Murphy of Old Saybook. Sylvie Murphy, Raymond's wife, was a match for Mario Garcia of New Haven; and Hilary Grant, Garcia's wife, could donate to Edward Brakoniecki of Stamford, who has waited five years for a kidney.

Peter Schulam, MD, PhD, chief of Urology at YNHH and chair of Urology at Yale School of Medicine, stressed that the March 3 surgeries were team efforts.

"In addition to the physicians, there are numerous transplant coordinators, nurses, physician residents, advanced practice providers and hospital staff who played a critical role in the execution of this event," he said. "This success demonstrates the skill, collaboration and compassion of all those involved in patient care at Yale New Haven Hospital."

"In years past, an altruistic donor's gift would result in a life-saving transplant to one fortunate person," Sanjay Kulkarni, MD, director of the Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program, YNHH and Yale School of Medicine, said at the press conference. "Today we are able to celebrate four life-saving transplants started with a great gift from our altruistic donor."

Living-donor transplantations are real-life examples of how every healthy person can save someone else's life. As of Sept. 8, 2014, there were 123,175 people waiting for life-saving organ transplants in the United States, including 101,170 awaiting kidneys. With the March 3 transplants at YNHH, four more people needing kidneys can be placed on the list.

Calling the seven other donors and recipients her "new friends," Menno- Coveney said, "I'm very blessed that this worked out so well."