|4 vials of my blood. Ready to go!|
With this, I now finally feel like I am rolling. Up to now it's just been questions but now, here it is in black and white, or more accurately, red.
I won't be knowing anything for the next two weeks about this. This blood draw was for the tissue matching phase.
Tissue matching is complex and it's really only about matching my genetic material up with someone else. All people have genes and these genes express all of our features that make us unique. Blood and tissue proteins, which are unique to each person or they occur in unique pairs among several people. These proteins are called antigens and they can be quantified and determined in blood tests. A set of these antigens create a genetic profile of a person.
There are six specific antigens in each donor and recipient that doctors are concerned about. They are called the major histo-compatibility complex. It just relates to how a donor is more or less compatible with a recipient (or many!)
The best match is a six antigen match. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Even among siblings having the same mother and father there’s only a 25% chance of a match. This made me think about altruistic donation for a bit. Even if one of my two sisters, who are full blooded to me, happened to need a kidney, there’s a 75% chance that it would never work.
Occasionally in the general population there is a random match. In terms of the testing that is done today, that is the best outcome. Donors who only match five antigens don’t do as well over the long term as someone with six.
The success numbers only go down from here i.e. someone matching five antigens does better than someone who matches four. Four does better than three,.. and so on.
The classic case of a body rejecting a kidney is because the antigens don’t match.
You might be wondering how anyone ever matches up to anybody in this situation. Well, here’s the good news: immunosuppressive medications have improved greatly to the extent that even poorly matched folks still have a chance at life. In fact, and this is the amazing part, even zero matches can actually work!
What makes the success even greater is having the kidney to come from a living donor. That’s key and it’s something I think that tipped the scale in favor of me choosing to do this now, while I am alive, than to wait for my demise, however that may happen.
There are very real benefits to being given a live kidney versus a cadaver kidney.
1. Studies have shown that recipients of a live kidney just plain live longer.
2. Recipients who have had their transplant prior to dialysis have shown better long term survival rates
3. Receiving a kidney from a live donor actually gives the recipient, donor and their families the ability to schedule the surgery when it’s convenient.
Knowing all of this just made me feel all the better as I sealed up the bag with my blood and sent it on its way. In two weeks I’ll know more and frankly, time couldn’t be going any slower.
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