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At Jefferson, Bellmawr Residents Become Part of Largest-Ever Kidney Transplant Chain

press release February 23, 2012


(PHILADELPHIA) – Debbie Giaquinto wanted to anything in her power to help her husband Kidney pix 367 Danny after his first transplanted kidney began to fail. But Debbie wasn’t a match and couldn’t donate one of her healthy kidneys to her high-school sweetheart and husband of 41 years.


photo Debbie and Danny Giaquinto


So when the kidney he received from his sister six years ago deteriorated, Danny Giaquinto returned to the constant cycle of dialysis as he waited for a new donor match. With more than 90,000 people on the waiting list for a kidney, it often takes four or five years for people in need to get one. 


That’s when the team at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital’s Kidney Transplant Program suggested a different approach, that Danny and Debbie join a donation chain coordinated in conjunction with the National Kidney Registry.


“With 90,000 kidneys needed every year and only 10,000 kidney donors, there is a large gap, and unfortunately, many people die waiting,” says Jefferson transplant surgeon Cataldo Doria, MD, PhD, FACS, director of Transplant Surgery at the Hospitals. “These chains close that gap and give hope to thousands of patients and their families. My hope is that more people come forward to altruistically donate to those in need.” 


Such donor chains are a relatively new approach to extending the benefits of transplants.  Candidates who have willing but incompatible donors can be matched to other suitable pairs. A donor chain extends that matched pair of two donor and two recipients further.


The chain works like this: The recipient gets a healthy kidney whose paired donor offers a healthy kidney to a stranger whose paired donor provides a healthy kidney to another person in need of transplant and so on for as long as donors and paired recipients can be found.


Recently, medical history was made when the largest-ever kidney transplant chain took place, involving 30 kidney donors and 30 recipients in 11 states. Danny and Debbie Giaquinto were participants 14 and 15 in the chain. Both had their operations at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in September. 


The donation chain was profiled in The New York Times on Sunday February 19.

“At the same time Danny was getting a new kidney flown in from a woman in California, I was giving my kidney to a man in Florida,” says Debbie. “It’s very rewarding for me. I’m just happy I was able to pay it forward and that someone was able to pay it forward to my husband. I can see how happy he is and how his health progresses every day.”


Danny had scleroderma-related renal failure.  “At one point, I don’t think Danny thought a transplant would happen,” Debbie says. “We waited five years. It was looking grim. He is a difficult match because he has a lot of antibodies from the first transplant. But thankfully, it happened.” 


Doria Cataldo-21Dr. Doria and his team performed the transplant surgeries for both Debbie and Danny.  He says kidney donation chains like the ones the Giaquinto’s participated in are vital to transforming the lives of thousands of transplant candidates.


Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals (TJUH) are dedicated to excellence in patient care, patient safety and the quality of the healthcare experience. Consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the nation's top hospitals, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, established in 1825, has over 900 licensed acute care beds with major programs in a wide range of clinical specialties. TJUH is one of the few hospitals in the U.S. that is both a Level 1 Trauma Center and a federally-designated regional spinal cord injury center.  TJUH patient care facilities include Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience, the region’s only dedicated hospital for neuroscience, Methodist Hospital in South Philadelphia, and additional patient care facilities throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  TJUH partners with its education affiliate, Thomas Jefferson University.

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