Story on WIVB News

September 14, 2006

It was a successful operation for a Jamestown man who now has a new kidney, and a man from Alaska, who gave it to him. Doctor Peter Ostrow has an operating room update on the patient and donor who met over the Internet.

William Thomas came to Buffalo on a life-saving mission: to donate one of his kidneys in Buffalo’s first transplant arranged through an Internet connection.

Dr. Mark Laftavi of Kaleida Health and UB said, “It’s a new era for us, to see people come and donate their kidney to a stranger. …  And I think it will open a door to those people with a good heart that are willing to help somebody else.”

Dr. Laftavi and his team took William and the recipient, Paul Cardinale, into two adjoining operating rooms at Buffalo General Hospital. The surgery went very well. Paul had no relatives able to donate, and his mother posted his profile on matchingdonors.com.

Jeanette Ostrom, Paul’s mother, said, “That was my only option. I couldn’t stand him being hooked up to a machine three times a week.”

Kidney donation from a living donor is a medically better procedure than from a cadaver.

Laftavi said, “If we expect a cadaver kidney to work for 10 years, we expect a living donor kidney to work for 20 years and even more.”

Some people who consider donating hesitate, wondering whether one of their own relatives might need it someday, but William has a better idea.

Thomas said, “You give it away when you got it, and you got it to give, and somebody needs it. You don’t wait for somebody to need it; there already is somebody that needs it.”

Ostrom said, “Now, we’d like to find donors for everyone on the waiting list here in Buffalo, so, hopefully, that will happen.”

Thomas said, “I’m relatively certain I’m not the only one out there who feels this way.”

In the past, the potential generosity of a donor like him was not allowed to bear fruit, and people who needed kidneys were not able to go out and seek them.

This represents a change in attitude by the hospital systems, and it may mean that many more people will get the organs they need.

Q: Can you really get along with only one kidney?

A: You only need about half a kidney to have full function. And a donor has to really be healthy before a kidney can be taken. That’s one reason the transplanted kidneys do so well for the recipients.