A kind gesture from one man in Tennessee has rippled across the country and changed the lives of 28 transplant recipients, including one Utah man. University of Utah Health's Transplant Program is one of 19 transplant centers in the country to participate in the second-largest kidney exchange in history.
The kidney exchange adds an innovative twist on efforts aimed at increasing the donor pool by giving people who are unable to receive a kidney from a loved one or friend the opportunity to still receive a kidney through an exchange between incompatible donor-recipient pairs.
The swap, named Chain 221, took under 40 days to complete - the largest in such a short amount of time - included 28 transplant recipients and 28 donors. Bolton Collins was one of the patients on the list who received a new kidney.
Forced to put his life on hold, Collins worried he would never find a donor. "There were a couple times I was in the emergency room in Las Vegas wondering if I was ever going to walk out," Collins said. "I wondered if I was ever going to get better."
After moving from Las Vegas, Nevada to Utah, Collins sought treatment from doctors and staff at the University of Utah Hospital's kidney transplant program. It was then that Collins was given the option to enter into a national pair donor exchange program.
"Our program realized that this was his best option and thought it was a great opportunity to get our recipient transplanted," said Bruce Garrett, kidney exchange coordinator at the University of Utah.
Collins joined Chain 221 and was matched to a living donor in Cleveland. Collins said, even though his donor lives across the country, he hopes to meet her one day. Until then, he's just living life to the fullest.
"What is there to really say? Thank you isn't sufficient enough," he said. "So, as I think about it, the best way to be grateful for this gift is to make my life a better life than it was before."