Doctors at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco began performing a rare six-way kidney transplant on Thursday involving a dozen donors and recipients from all over the state.
The six-way transplant, which will occur over two days, is the “largest single center kidney paired donation chain conducted on the West Coast” and the largest conducted in the 44-year history of the CPMC Transplant Center, the hospital said. CPMC was the first California hospital to perform a five-way kidney swap in 2011.
Most are from the Bay Area, and two are from the Central Valley. The donors and recipients include three parent-and-child pairs, one sibling pair, and one brother- and sister-in-law pair.
“I’m excited, not nervous,” donor Zully Broussard, 55, of Sacramento told NBC Bay Area on Wednesday. “I know there's going to be a life out there that's extended. I feel like there is a higher power behind all this making it happen. I didn't realize it was so huge. I'm just a small part of the chain."
Broussard is the first person to kick off the chain and she said she has no idea who she's giving her kidney to. Dr. Steven Katznelson, medical director of the hospital’s Kidney Transplant Program, called her a "lovely lady" and the altruistic woman behind the rare event.
Several hospitals have performed paired donations. Some have participated in one that extends across several sites — or even across several states, where sometimes dozens of people get new organs. Doctors at California Pacific Medical Center said they hadn’t heard of another set of such transplants involving more people.
"Kidney pair donations have been around for years," Katznelson said. "But to have such a big chain done all at one center in just a short amount of time, I don't know of any precedent."
The pay-it-forward kidney donations all started because of Broussard's kindness, who said, without going into much detail that she had a " loss in my life," and now has this opportunity. Broussard's son died of cancer 13 years ago, and her husband died almost a year ago, also of cancer.
What Katznelson said was also so great is that now, six other people on the kidney transplant list will now get bumped up to the top because of this all-encompassing surgery.
Broussard started this whole chain effect after she came to the hospital and simply said she wanted to donate a kidney, but had no one to donate to. David Jacobs, developer of Matchgrid, said his softward program helped match the 11 other people in a "domino-like" effect. Jacobs himself had a kidney transplant at CPMC.
In April 2014, the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients identified the hospital as the as the nation’s only hospital with both kidney and liver transplant programs that have higher-than-expected one- and three-year adult patient survival rates. CPMC said the hospital also saw 98.4 percent of kidney patients survive one year after transplant, compared to the expected 96.6 percent.