Monday, November 28, 2005

This Gives a Whole New Meaning to Wife Swapping!

Families in kidney swap give thanks

AP Photo/Mike Derer :: David Dorlen, left, sits with his wife, Dr. Rosalind Dorlen, both of Mountainside, N.J., and Ann Heavner, second from right, sits with her husband, Tom Packard, both of New York City.

Updated: 11/26/05


In April, they were total strangers who nonetheless shared a dire dilemma: two women whose husbands needed a kidney, but who could not give one of their own to their spouse.

But after being brought together by a hospital and arranging a swap in which each woman donated a kidney to the other's husband, they will share Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday to celebrate the arrangement that saved two lives and bonded four new friends.

"I can't comprehend what this Thanksgiving would have been like without that kidney swap in April," said one of the women, Dr. Rosalind Dorlen, a psychologist in Summit. "This is a time of great joy for us and our families."

"This is an entirely miraculous holiday," added Ann Heavner, a retired financial researcher for Standard & Poors who lives in New York City.

The women wanted to help their husbands, but couldn't because of incompatible blood types. Dorlen's husband, David, 71, was undergoing kidney failure after years of high blood pressure. Heavner's husband, Tom Packard, 65, a senior vice president at Wachovia Securities, also had high blood pressure and a congenital condition that put added stress on his kidneys, requiring painful dialysis three times a week.

"I had a really rough time with it," he said. "I'd get violent cramps, nausea, and I was just wiped out. It would take me at least a day to recover from each treatment."

Both men knew they needed new kidneys, and set out with their wives to research what was available. They learned of a kidney swap program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center that brings together families just like theirs.

"It is a great opportunity for family members who want to donate but are not compatible with their own family member to be able to donate," said Dr. David Cohen, medical director of the hospital's renal and pancreatic transplantation program.

Dr. Lloyd Ratner, who heads the program, performed the surgery on April 21, which involved four operating rooms coordinating the removal of kidneys from the women and the transplantation into the men. He said the use of live donors expands the pool of potential transplants; many kidney transplants come from cadavers.

"There are not enough organs and we need to be able to use any live donor that we have," he said.

The families are supposed to be kept apart before the surgery in case they do not click on some level and one party decides to back out at the last moment. But due to a scheduling snafu, both families arrived at the hospital at precisely the same time: 6 a.m.

"It's unusual to come to a hospital and see each member of a couple holding an overnight bag," said Rosalind Dorlen. "Here we are, four of us, with four bags, walking onto the same elevator at 6 a.m."

"Rosalind said, `You must be the other couple,' " Packard recalled with a laugh. "I said, `I think we are.' "

The surgery was done laporascopically, involving tiny surgical instruments inserted through two tiny incisions in the skin. It's much less invasive and less painful than older techniques. The women said it took them several weeks to recover. Now, they feel exactly as they did before the surgery.

Packard came through it so well that he is off most of his post-transplant medication, and his blood pressure is the envy of men decades younger than he is. David Dorlen is recovering more slowly, but he still feels better than before the operation.

Since the surgery, the couples have become close friends, going out to dinner twice a month. They even took a joint vacation to Saratoga in August to go to the track, long one of Packard's great joys.

The two families, with children and other relatives in tow, will gather in the Dorlens' Mountainside home on Thursday to express how truly grateful they are for each other's generosity. Packard has his version of the pre-meal grace speech written in his head, which should go something like this:

"In the words of that immortal philosopher Yogi Berra, when they gave him a special day to honor him in St. Louis, he stepped up to the microphone and told everyone, `Thank you for making this day necessary,' " Packard said. "I want to thank you for coming here to celebrate this wonderful miracle, and for making this Thanksgiving necessary."; Happy News: Families in Kidney Swap Give Thanks
Last visited: 28 Nov 2005; Last updated: 28 Nov 2005

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Blogger AB5SY said...

OMG........I can't believe the title. lol

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger Moof said...

My bad ... >;-)

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 11:25:00 AM  

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