UAB celebrates nation's longest kidney transplant chain - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

UAB celebrates nation's longest kidney transplant chain

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UAB has the nation's longest kidney chain, with 21 patients involved in the chain. Source: WBRC video UAB has the nation's longest kidney chain, with 21 patients involved in the chain. Source: WBRC video
Source: WBRC video Source: WBRC video
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

The University of Alabama Birmingham Hospital is celebrating the nation's longest kidney transplant chain.

It's something that's saving lives and so far has given 21 people a new lease on life. The next life-saving surgery is scheduled for next Thursday.

"I would still be on dialysis, or on a waiting list, or even staying on dialysis till I die," explained Ellen Heron.

She is one of the 21 patients involved in this chain. One of Heron's family friends offered to donate her kidney, but that friend was not a match for her.

Thanks to the transplant program at UAB and a team of more than 80 medical professionals, there was still hope.

UAB surgeon Jayme Locke says this all started with a woman's desire to save a stranger's life.

"Paula Kok who wanted to donate to someone but didn't have a particular person in mind," Dr. Locke explained.

Kok's kidney went to a patient in need named Lornett Stewart. Similar to Ellen Heron's scenario, Lornett's daughter wanted to donate to her mom, but she wasn't a match.

"So what Ms. Kok has done is literally set off a chain of 21 transplants that would not have ever occurred without her gift in the very beginning," Dr. Locke added.

Ellen Heron was the third patient in the chain.

"It's not just me, but it's a whole list of other people whose lives are changed," Heron said.

Last summer Heron was on dialysis and that kept her from her grandkids. Fast forward to this year's break, all three of them are spending their vacation Grandma's.

"It's nothing short of miraculous because everybody's story is so amazing. I call it puzzle pieces that God has put together to put this big picture together and it's not over yet," Heron said.

"This is going to go on for as long as people want to continue to donate and we're hoping that this is going to go on for some time," added Dr. Locke.

She says this program drastically reduces the wait time for a transplant.

"If you're not near a program like this, you're relegated then to the deceased donor waiting list and in the state of Alabama, depending on your blood type, it may be upwards of 10 years before you even get a call that a kidney is available for you."

For more information on the program visit the program's website, http://www.uab.edu/kidneychain. 

To learn more about kidney donation, please fill out this form or call 1-888-822-7892, or (205) 975-9200.

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