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Each year, the lives of thousands of people across the country are saved because someone made the choice to become an organ donor. In April, Allegheny Health Network is honored to celebrate National Donate Life Month and pay tribute to all of those who have bestowed the precious gift of life to another through organ donation. Visit AHNdonate.org to learn more and register to be an organ donor.



Format: 04/18/2014
Format: 04/18/2014


Friended, Indeed: AGH Kidney Recipient, Donor, Found Each Other Through Facebook

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Pittsburgh, PA - Sarah Taylor, her kidneys functioning at just 14 percent capacity, was near desperation. She needed a kidney transplant and though family members were willing to donate, none was a suitable match.
Just two blocks away in Indiana, Pa., Sara Steelman, sparked by a magazine article, had been pondering organ donation, thinking it would be a way to serve the greater good.  Neither was aware of the other’s situation – until Facebook entered the picture.

Ms. Taylor and Ms. Steelman are now recovering from successful kidney transplant surgery June 15 at Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) after connecting as donor and recipient through Facebook, in what may be a local first for the popular social networking site.

Facebook is the latest unconventional way in which kidney patients find matching donors. Allegheny General has also been a pioneer in using paired exchanges, designed for transplant candidates who have a willing but incompatible living donor. A network matches such donor-recipients with another incompatible pair for an exchange of suitable donors.

“More than 85,000 people nationwide are on a waiting list for a kidney transplant, a life-saving procedure,” said Ngoc L. Thai, MD, PhD, Director of AGH’s Center for Abdominal Transplantation. “It’s vital that we continue to find new ways to connect donors and recipients. We’re thrilled that a newer technology such as Facebook played a role in making this transplant happen.”

Eleven years ago, Ms. Taylor nearly died after suffering a dissected aorta and aneurysm. She continued to experience renal failure and was placed on the kidney transplant waiting list in 2009. Her sisters weren’t suitable matches, and Ms. Taylor began to consider new options for getting the word out about her plight.

Her Facebook posting drew 197 responses, including Ms. Steelman’s. Ms.Taylor’s sister had worked for Ms. Steelman, a former state legislator, and the two also knew each other through a community theatre group.
All the responses went to Allegheny General, where transplant coordinators narrowed the candidates down to four. After months of screening, Ms. Steelman was deemed the best match.

"This case also illustrates that kidney donors do not have to be family members,” Dr. Thai said.

Ms.Taylor could have waited as long as four years for a cadaver donor. The use of live donors is growing, thanks in part to online connections. AGH has performed 26 live-donor transplants in over the past year, up from an average of 15 in previous years.

Post-surgery, Ms. Taylor continues to provide updates on her condition on her Facebook page.

A center for kidney transplantation since 1987, AGH transplant specialists have played a prominent role in the advancement of the field. Surgeons at the hospital were the first in the region to perform bilateral adult kidney transplantation in 1997 and the first to remove a kidney from a living donor laparoscopically in 1998.

Kidney transplantation has become one of the most common and successful organ transplant procedures and outcomes from living donor transplantation are considerably better than cadaveric donors, Dr. Thai said.




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