Hilda, we were wrong; we need you!
Kidney donor Hilda Elmore shared her donation story with BAAKP. She was initially accepted as a potential living donor in a paired kidney exchange program for her stepdaughter, Cindy Elmore (whose blood type is O+), but when she turned 70, Hilda received a call that she had “aged out” of the UNOS kidney exchange program at Lahey Hospital in Burlington, Massachusetts (where Cindy was registered).
Meanwhile, Cindy had been on peritoneal dialysis for three years and was waiting for a transplant.
Suddenly, Lahey Hospital called again. A change of heart! They hoped to use Hilda as a donor after all! The person who was initially offered Hilda’s kidney was very hard to match and had previously turned Hilda’s kidney down because of her age. Realizing that this might be her only chance, she changed her mind and luckily Lahey had neglected to remove Hilda’s name from the system. Within 6 weeks, Hilda became part of a living donation chain with seven other participants. An altruistic donor in San Francisco initiated the chain. This generous donor matched 5 out of 6 of Cindy’s markers! His kidney was flown to Burlington for Cindy and Hilda’s kidney was flown from Burlington to the hard-to-match recipient in the Washington, D. C. area. In all, there were 4 donors and 4 recipients in this cross-country chain. Both donors and recipients rolled into surgery around the same time on both sides of the U.S.
Hilda spent 3 weeks in total in the Boston area. The hospital was very generous with Hilda – giving her $6000 on a bank card for a hotel, rental car, and meals. The recipient’s medical insurance paid all donor medical expenses.
Lahey Hospital spent the first week (before the transplant surgery) retesting Hilda to verify that she and her kidneys were still healthy enough for Hilda to donate. The doctors said she had the kidneys of a 40-year-old, with a very low creatinine of 0.8.
Hilda left the hospital 5 days after donating her left kidney, and returned to the hotel. There she recovered, stating that she thought she felt worse than the recipient; she couldn’t stand up straight and was nauseous, but that passed. Hilda then became bored, so she and her present husband, Lee, toured parts of New England, returning to the hotel each night.
It has been 6 years now and Hilda’s creatinine remains low and checkups are all positive. Cindy’s kidney from the altruistic donor continues to work great also. Their story shows not to give up and that, if you are healthy enough, there can be no age limit on donating a kidney.