1,000 lifesaving connections: Kidney Paired Donation program hits 1,000 transplant milestone

1,000 patients in Canada have received kidney transplants thanks to the kidney exchange program led by Canadian Blood Services, in collaboration Nova Scotia Health, and living donation and transplant programs across Canada.

These transplants, facilitated through the Kidney Paired Donation (KPD) program, represent 1,000 people whose lives have been saved or forever changed by the gift of organ donation. The KPD program connects living donor programs across the country, enabling them to achieve together what no jurisdiction can do exclusively on its own.

“This achievement is a testament to the collaborative efforts of living donation and transplant programs, health-care professionals, and most importantly the generosity of living donors who made the selfless decision to donate their kidney for a loved one or a stranger,” said Dr. Graham Sher, Canadian Blood Services’ chief executive officer.

“We are thrilled to acknowledge the dedication of the health care teams and support staff involved in the Kidney Paired Donation program. Their expertise, combined with the generosity of the donors, has transformed the lives of 56 Atlantic Canadians,” said Dr. Bryce Kiberd, Senior Medical Director of the Multi-Organ Transplant Program and Nephrologist at the QEII. “This milestone is a testament to the indomitable spirit of humanity and will inspire further advancements in organ transplantation, bringing renewed hope to even more patients and families across Canada.”

Launched in 2009 by Canadian Blood Services, the national KPD program matches suitable living donors to recipients across Canada. The program offers living kidney donors the possibility of helping someone they know, or even someone they don’t, receive a kidney transplant, even if they are not a match to the person they are trying to help.

Using a sophisticated matching algorithm, the program identifies compatible transplant opportunities created through chains of paired donations from otherwise incompatible pairs. These chains are also made possible thanks to non-directed anonymous donors (willing living donors without a specific intended recipient).

“This program has saved or improved the lives of 1,000 people, many who may not have otherwise received a transplant, or would have waited longer for a transplant from a deceased donor,” added Dr. Sher.

A milestone made possible thanks to living donors

The success of the KPD program is due to the selflessness of hundreds of individuals who stepped forward to be living organ donors. In addition to the altruistic anonymous donors who make these kidney exchanges possible, reaching this milestone is a direct result of the collaborative efforts of living donation and transplant programs across Canada.

Kidney Paired donation has helped recipients like Rae Maher of Halifax, who spent a year on dialysis before the call came in that would save her life. Rae’s sister, Leona, and daughter, Meghan, wanted to donate their kidneys to Rae, but unfortunately neither was a match. Determined to help Rae, both signed up for the KPD program; a decision that created a chain of potential compatible kidney transplant opportunities for Rae.

“Joining the KPD program was such a rewarding experience,” said Meghan. “It feels good to know that our collective efforts have impacted other families in a positive way. Not only is my mom getting a new lease on life, but my kidney went on to help another family going through the same thing we were.”

Making all the difference from coast to coast

At any given time, more than 4,000 people in Canada are waiting for an organ and 75 per cent of those waiting require a kidney. The KPD program is an example of how provincial health systems working together can improve the health of individuals beyond provincial borders and improve access to transplants for patients in Canada, no matter where they live. With all provincial living donation and transplant programs participating, the KPD program is able to identify matched donors and recipients from across Canada.

“Without this program, transplant candidates would never know they match a willing living donor in another city or province. It’s a true reflection of our commitment to help every patient, match every need and serve every Canadian,” added Dr. Sher.

Facts and stats:

• Of the 4,000 people in Canada awaiting an organ, more than 3,000 are on a wait list for kidney transplantation, hundreds die each year waiting.
• The oldest person to donate a kidney through the KPD program was 76 years old. The oldest person to receive a kidney was 84 years old. The youngest recipient was two years old.
• 182 kidneys have been shipped across Canada from donors to recipients. The farthest distance a kidney was shipped was approximately 3,965 km between Vancouver and Quebec City.
• The farthest distance a donor has travelled to donate a kidney is from Corner Brook, Nfld. to Vancouver, B.C.
• 220 non-directed anonymous donors (NDADs) have helped 681 people receive a kidney transplant by donating through the program.
• 246 patients have received a transplant through the KPD program without ever having to start dialysis.
• A living donor kidney transplant lasts, on average, 21 years, compared to 11 years for a deceased donor kidney transplant. 

You can make all the difference. Learn more about living donation and the KPD program by visiting our website.