HCA Healthcare affiliate Methodist Hospital | Specialty and Transplant achieves new national kidney transplant milestone

HCA Healthcare affiliate Methodist Hospital | Specialty and Transplant achieves new national kidney transplant milestone

Over the years, the immense experience of HCA Healthcare’s transplant teams has led to survival and a better quality of life for thousands of patients. In 2021 our teams worked vigilantly to maximize the number of transplant options available to our patients. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) recently recognized the kidney transplant program at HCA Healthcare affiliate Methodist Hospital | Specialty and Transplant as the nation’s only transplant program in history to perform more than 200 living donor and more than 200 deceased donor kidney transplants in a single year.

According to data released in January 2022, the San Antonio, Texas program completed 221 living donor kidney transplants and 216 deceased donor kidney transplants in 2021. They were also recognized as the largest living kidney transplant program, the largest kidney paired donation program and the largest Hispanic kidney transplant program in the country.

“This milestone demonstrates our commitment to improve the lives of people with kidney disease in our communities, one patient at a time,” said Kevin Scoggin, chief executive officer of Methodist Hospital | Specialty and Transplant. “To achieve this national recognition at a community hospital that serves a majority Hispanic population and many underserved communities around Texas is a remarkable accomplishment.”

Dr. Adam Bingaman, national medical director of solid organ transplant at HCA Healthcare and director of the hospital’s abdominal transplant program, says that a primary focus of the program is to overcome barriers to transplantation that many patients face, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity and social determinants.

“Kidney transplantation substantially prolongs and improves life compared with dialysis,” said Dr. Bingaman. “Our program has developed unique dual expertise in both living and deceased donor transplantation, which has allowed all of our patients a better opportunity to receive a lifesaving transplant.”

It is estimated that over 37 million Americans are living with chronic kidney disease, with over 500,000 people on dialysis. Over 100,000 Americans begin dialysis each year and approximately one out of five are likely to die within a year. Over 90,000 patients are on a waiting list for a kidney transplant, yet less than 25,000 received a kidney transplant in 2021. 

“Transplantation requires the generosity of living donors and donor families,” said Amanda Weichold, vice president of transplant services at Methodist Hospital | Specialty and Transplant.  “It is our privileged obligation to honor these gifts of life and our team is proud to live up to this challenge every day.”

People standing outside a hospital with confetti poppers to celebration national transplant milestone.
HCA Healthcare colleagues at Methodist Hospital | Specialty and Transplant celebrate recognition as the nation’s only transplant program in history to perform more than 200 living donor and more than 200 deceased donor kidney transplants in a single year.

Learn about living kidney donation

Living donation offers another choice for some kidney transplant candidates because a person can live with only one kidney. According to Donate Life America, the average waiting time for a donor kidney from a deceased donor is three to five years. A kidney from a living donor offers patients an alternative to years of dialysis and time on the national transplant waiting list. With a living donation, a patient may be able to receive a transplant in one year or less. After donation, the living organ donor’s remaining kidney will enlarge, doing the work of 2 healthy kidneys.

The United Network for Organ Sharing details three main types of living donor transplants:

  1. Directed donation – In a directed donation, the donor names the specific person to receive the transplant. This is the most common type of living donation. The donor may be:
    1. a biological relative, such as a parent, brother, sister or adult child,
    1. a biologically unrelated person who has a personal or social connection with the transplant candidate, such as a spouse or significant other, a friend or a coworker, or
    1. a biologically unrelated person who has heard about the transplant candidate’s need.
  2. Paired donation – Sometimes, a transplant candidate has someone who wants to donate a kidney to them, but tests reveal that the kidney would not be a good medical match. Kidney paired donation, or KPD, also called kidney exchange, gives that transplant candidate another option. In KPD, living donor kidneys are swapped so each recipient receives a compatible transplant.
  3. Non-directed donation – In non-directed donation, the donor does not name the specific person to get the transplant. The match is arranged based on medical compatibility with a patient in need. Some non-directed donors choose never to meet their recipient. And some candidates choose not to meet their donor. And in other cases, the donor and recipient may meet at some time, if they both agree, and if the transplant hospital policy permits it.

If you know a person you would like to help through living directed donation, talk to them and contact the transplant program where the person is listed. If you would like to be a living non-directed donor, contact a transplant hospital of your choice to find out if they have this type of donation program. Visit the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network’s Member Directory for a complete list of transplant hospitals in the United States.

HCA Healthcare patient and Vietnam veteran receives new kidney after three-way transplant exchange

Living donation has revolutionized kidney transplantation – and a Navy veteran who served in the Vietnam War now has a new chance at life thanks to a three-way kidney swap.

Last year Jim Ashbaugh had little function left in his kidneys due to exposure to Agent Orange, a tactical herbicide used in the Vietnam War. The exposure caused diabetes, which ravaged his kidneys and left him at 10% kidney functionality. “It all just started coming together and slowly deteriorating on my kidneys,” Jim said. “It was discouraging that I had to go on dialysis.”

Because of Jim’s age, he was ineligible to be placed on the transplant list for a deceased donor. Instead, he was only eligible for a living donor.

Traci Toepperwein, Jim’s adoptive daughter, and her husband were tested to see if they were kidney matches. Unfortunately, the tests showed that they were not a match.

Traci set out on a mission to find a donor for Jim. “Since he saved my life at eight months old, it is now my turn to save his life,” Traci told NBC News 4 San Antonio in June of 2021. “He is my hero, by far. There’s absolutely nothing that I wouldn’t do for him.”

Shortly after Traci started to get the word out about Jim’s need for a living donor, he was notified that there was a kidney available to him. It was not as straightforward as one transplant. It was a three-way kidney swap.

Traci and two others agreed to donate their healthy kidneys in return for their loved ones to receive a stranger’s healthy organ. “She matched somebody else and then they matched somebody else and then it came back to me. So they did all three of them at the same time,” said Jim who received his new kidney at HCA Healthcare affiliate Methodist Hospital |Specialty and Transplant.

“The need for kidney transplantation in Texas is just so large. The computer program will show us, hey you know this person’s donor that doesn’t match their recipient it matches somebody else’s recipient,” Dr. Bingaman explains. “It is remarkable the courage that these donors have.”

Jim is thankful for the care he received from the transplant team at Methodist Hospital | Specialty and Transplant and for the gift of life from “his angel”. He calls it “earth-shaking” that somebody would donate an organ to someone that they didn’t know personally.

Man and woman in wearing hospital gowns and face coverings
Read more about Jim Ashbaugh’s journey to kidney transplantation on NBC News 4 San Antonio.

For more information about living donation and organ transplant, visit United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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