More than 100 kidney and liver donors, their recipients and transplant teams from Georgetown University Hospital, Washington Hospital Center, Children’s National Medical Center, Inova Fairfax Hospital and Walter Reed Army Medical Center were honored in April during a ceremony celebrating the selfless act of giving an organ and National Donate Life Month.
The event, hosted by Georgetown Transplant Institute, brought together many of the donor/recipient pairs from GTI’s last five paired kidney exchanges. The highly successful kidney exchange program began with a 2-way swap in January 2009, which kicked off a series of record-breaking exchanges; a 7-way in August 2009, followed by a 13-way in December of that year, then a 14-way in the summer of 2010 followed by a 16-way in November of 2010, for a total of 52 donors and 52 recipients. Many of these special people got the chance to meet for the very first time.
Thomas Fishbein, MD, chief, Georgetown Transplant Institute, said, “All of the donors sitting in this room, and those who couldn’t be here tonight, are really extraordinary heroes who have put their own lives at risk to help another person—it’s really an amazing thing.”
One such hero was Rosemary DeButts of Purcellville, Virginia—a non-directed donor whose kidney went to Rev. Oliver Johnson of Washington, DC. Johnson was emotional as he stepped forward to publicly thank the woman who saved his life.
“God sends angels to deliver his blessings,” he said, holding back tears. “This experience has so touched my very foundation. When I met Rosemary, she was crying and I was crying. That was 15 months ago—I haven’t stopped crying!”
Many of the donors and recipients continue to build relationships with one another long after they’ve healed from their surgeries.
“My donor isn’t here tonight, but he’s part of my family and I’m part of his,” said kidney recipient Elizabeth Gardner of Clinton, Maryland. “He’s got two sweet little girls—they call me ‘grandma,’” Gardner’s donor, Jordan Brough of Alexandria, Virginia, gave his kidney even though he did not have a loved one in the exchange.
“Organ donors are not like your average person—they’re different, they’re unique,” said Keith Melancon, MD, director of Georgetown Transplant Institute’s Paired Kidney Exchange Program. “They tend to go the extra mile for their fellow man. What a great opportunity to have them all in the same room to see the faces of the people they saved and for us to honor them and say ‘thank you.’”
According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, there are currently about 110,926 people on the waitlist for a transplant. Of those, about 90,000 are waiting for a kidney.
Media Contact: Meggie Davis
Patient Contact: 202-342-2400