Loyola hosts 1st Ill. kidney transplant chain

March 31, 2010 4:38:47 AM PDT
An unusual pay-it-forward organ donation chain at Loyola University Medical Center is saving lives.

Four Good Samaritans recently approached Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood about donating their kidneys to strangers in need. The hope is that the donations will inspire loved ones of the recipients to donate their kidneys to strangers in need.

The first families to participate in this transplant chain met for the first time Tuesday morning.

Christina Lamb and Robert Rylko met for the first time Tuesday but they already share a deep bond; Rylko received her kidney 12-days ago. Lamb decided to donate it to a stranger after her husband needed a transplant 5 years ago and she wasn't a match.

"I truly believe in the term pay it forward and how important it is to give someone quality of life," said Lamb.

"I was at dialysis 3 times a week for 3 hours. Now I don't even have to worry about that," said Rylko.

Their story isn't the only feel good story at Loyola University Health System. Five donors have come forward, for various reasons, to give their kidneys to whoever needs it the most and is the best match.

Loyola is calling it the 'pay it forward' kidney donation chain, where a donor's organ goes to a recipient with a would-be donor who is incompatible. That person then donates to someone else with an incompatible donor, and so on. Because of Loyola's donors, three chains have been started with kidneys going to recipients in New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

"We indirectly are helping our own recipients waiting for a transplant while helping the greater transplant community as a whole," said Dr. John Milner, Loyola University Health System.

There was also a brief but emotional meeting between Cynthia Ruiz, who donated her kidney Monday to Melissa Clynes. Clynes' family thanked Ruiz for her gift.

Loyola said more kidneys are needed. Last year, there were 15,000 available kidneys for a waiting list of 84,000 people.

"Each transplant that is performed will save $100,000 a year in costs for dialysis," said Dr. David Holt, Loyola University Health System.

This is the first time that a transplant chain has originated in Illinois.