Young patients prioritized for donated kidneys - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Young patients prioritized for donated kidneys

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

Without the gift of his transplanted kidney earlier this year, Sean Immonen could have easily died at the age of 29.

It's fair to say his three-year wait for an organ, which included a week's worth of intensive care, traumatized both his body and his mind.

"If someone comes up to you and tells you, you are dying, I think that's when you truly start living," Immonen said of his close call.

The fact that Immonen can look forward now to so much "living" illustrates the reasoning behind the substantial rule changes which govern the distribution of organs.  In an effort to save more total years of life, the United Network for Organ Sharing plans to prioritize 20 percent of donated kidneys for those recipients with the longest life expectancy, a rule change which favors the youngest patients.

If and when the guidelines take effect, decisions would no longer be exclusively based on waiting list position and eminent medical need.

"I fully agree that I would have gotten a transplant a lot sooner.  I would not have waited for three plus years.  I would not have had to be on so many medications and go through so many roller coaster rides of waiting for an organ," Immonen said of the proposed changes.

Transplant specialist Dr. Osama Gaber at Houston's Methodist Hospital believes the proposed guidelines are beneficial because they will better match recipients with age appropriate donated organs.

"Today, you could take a 55-year-old and give to an 18-year-old which I think is unreasonable, because there are 18-year-old kidneys that go to 65-year-olds.  It's not that we are not going to transplant the 65-year-olds.  We are just going to give him a kidney that's 55 or 65, plus or minus 10 years, which I think is quite appropriate," Gaber said.

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