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Houston Methodist program gives dialysis workers first-hand knowledge of living donor kidney transplantation

September 4, 2018

Social worker Brianna McClure talks to dialysis patients every day about the option of receiving a living donor kidney transplant. But it wasn’t until she saw one being performed that she understood what it means for a person to receive the gift of life.

“I saw one of my patients receive a kidney donated by his wife, and it was a very emotional experience,” McClure said. “Seeing the kidney being taken out of the donor, watching them prepare it, and then putting it into the recipient was truly an amazing and emotional experience for me.”

McClure took part in the Houston Methodist J.C. Walter Jr. Transplant Center’s Transplant Partnership Program. The program is designed to bring staff members from dialysis units into the hospital on the day one of their patients is receiving a living donor transplant to see how the transplant process works.

“The dialysis providers are required by law to talk to dialysis patients about transplant, so they are key educators for this population,” said Joe Sharp, a business development specialist who developed and oversees the program. “Once they experience the surgery themselves they are better able to connect with future patients and help them understand the process of living donation and transplantation.”

A recent study found that patients who receive a living donor kidney transplant have a nearly 88 percent survival rate at five years compared to 47 percent for patients on dialysis.

“The 10- year survival rate is 56 percent for living donor patients and 20 percent for those on dialysis,” said Hassan Ibrahim, M.D., a nephrologist with Houston Methodist J.C. Walter Jr. Transplant Center. “It’s important that dialysis social workers have all the facts before talking to patients about living donation because more than 90,000 patients are currently on the kidney transplant list waiting for deceased donors.”

Sharp believes the program helps dialysis staff members walk away with a new story to tell about living donation.

“There is a lot of fear associated with living donation. Is it safe? Can the donor live a healthy life with one kidney? These are just a couple of concerns most people have,” Sharp said. “When they tell patients what they have witnessed in the OR, they are instantly validated in the patient’s eyes because they have actually “been there” and are better able to get through to the patient in a more efficient and effective manner.”

McClure says after seeing the transplant she believes she can help her patients figure out the best course of treatment for them.

“I now know how positive the transplant process can be,” McClure said. “I feel I’ll be able to now give my patients better information about their option of receiving a living donor transplant.”

For more on Houston Methodist Hospital, go to www.houstonmethodist.org or call 713-790-3333.

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