BY SONJA PUZIC, The Windsor Star
WINDSOR, Ont. -- Since she was 16, Debbie Storie has depended on the sacrifices of others to survive.
After suffering kidney failure, she received a kidney from her sister but her body rejected the organ immediately. Storie then received another kidney from an unknown young man killed in a motorcycle accident. Her body rejected that one as well.
Then came the gift from the anonymous family of a little boy who died tragically. His kidney carried Storie for nearly 30 years -- a rare feat. But the organ's lifespan has come to an end and Storie, 54, needs a fourth transplant.
Although she didn't want to ask another family member to go through the physically and emotionally draining process of organ donation only to risk another rejection, Storie's brother-in-law, Larry Vandelinder, offered one of his kidneys. Problem is, he's not a close enough match and Storie is considered a high-risk transplant recipient because of her previous rejections.
But thanks to a relatively new Canadian Blood Services program, Storie will still get a viable kidney and Vandelinder's will go to someone else who desperately needs it.
The national Living Donor Paired Exchange Registry facilitates swaps between pairs of kidney donors and recipients based on compatibility of blood and tissue types. That means Vandelinder's kidney will be swapped with that of an anonymous donor who is a better match for Storie and go to an unknown recipient matched with Vandelinder.
"It's an amazing program that I don't think many people even know about," Storie said. "It's given me another chance. My brother-in-law has just been amazing. The fact that he's giving up a kidney doesn't seem to faze him. He just wants to help."
Storie is scheduled to receive a new kidney as part of a so-called "domino" transplant, involving eight pairs of donors and recipients in different parts of the country. That number could change if one or more people back out or are unable to go through with the procedure. Vandelinder will fly out to Vancouver to have his kidney removed there, while Storie will go to the London Health Sciences Centre for her transplant on the same day. The transplants are expected to take place in about two months.
Organizing multiple kidney transplants through the paired exchange program is a "huge, complicated" process, involving massive co-ordination between operating rooms and surgeons across the country, said Canadian Blood Services spokesman Chris Brennan.
"It's worked out down to the last minute because we want all the transplants to happen at the same time," he said.
While domino transplants can be arranged if everything falls into place, kidney exchanges involving just two pairs of donors and recipients are more common, Brennan said.
The paired exchange registry has been "very successful" so far, resulting in 37 transplants, Brennan said. There are 107 pairs on the registry and that number is expected to increase as the program expands to other provinces. Pilot transplant programs through the registry were done in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.
Storie said she is grateful for all the people who've joined the registry because she was matched with a donor shortly after adding her name to the list. Storie's family and friends will be holding a fundraiser to help offset all the travel costs involved, including Vandelinder's plane ticket to Vancouver and hotel bill.
The Living Donor Paired Exchange Registry is expected to increase live kidney donations in Canada by 20 per cent or more. Currently, about 35,000 Canadians suffer from kidney disease and 3,000 people are on waiting lists for a kidney transplant.
A pasta and chicken dinner fundraiser for Debbie Storie and her family will be held June 26 at the Moose Lodge, 777 Tecumseh Rd. W. Tickets are $15 per person and can be purchased at the door or in advance at the Windsor Family Credit Union or the Ukrainian Credit Union. Tickets can also be ordered over the phone at 519-979-4295 or 519-948-9108
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