Just in time for Valentine's Day, Canadian Blood Services announced on February 12 that it has officially launched the national Living Donor Paired Exchange Registry.
This is wonderful news for families waiting for kidney transplants. Research has shown that living donor kidneys are often more successful than cadaveric transplants and patients' families and friends are encouraged to be tested for compatibility. Unfortunately, many patients are unable to find compatible donors among family or friends and thus remain on the transplant waiting list, sometimes for many years, until a suitable match becomes available from a deceased donor.
The registry already has 23 pairs of donors/recipients registred through pilot programs in Ontario, Alberta, and BC and other provinces will be added shortly. [It is unclear whether Quebec will be included in the registry. The province maintains an agency called Héma-Québec which operates a parallel but separate blood and human tissue service.]
This national registry will open up a much wider pool of willing and eager donors who can more quickly be matched with closely-matched recipients, it will enable those remaining on the waiting list to receive cadaveric kidneys more quickly, it may offer opportunities for altruistic donors who are not paired with anyone, and will ensure a more equitable access to donor organs across the country.
I had begun the testing process to see if I was a possible donor match for Chris but because of his unstable health, he was withdrawn from the waiting list waiting list (don't ask!). If his health had been stable and I had ultimately been found not to be a match for him, I'm sure that Chris would have consented to us being placed on the Paired Exchange Registry. A pair of strangers somewhere in Canada would have possibly been our match. What a lovely thought... what a wonderful gift to give and to receive!