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Therapy Modulates Highly Sensitized Immune System to Let Mother Give Kidney to Daughter

ng me. They can solve everything? And they’ve done it for other people?”

Soraya’s kidneys were healthy until March 2003 when she underwent surgery for a congenital heart defect and a major vein was accidentally severed. The 24 units of blood she was given over the next few hours saved her life, but her kidneys suffered irreparable damage, and along with all those transfusions of other people’s blood came high exposure to non-self HLAs.

Jordan estimates that about 40 percent of Cedars-Sinai’s kidney transplant patients are in the highly sensitized category, referred to the program – or self-referred – because they could not be considered for transplantation elsewhere. “We’re able to transplant probably about 95 to 97 percent of the patients we see,” he adds.

Joan’s donor operation was performed by Gerhard Fuchs, M.D., director of Cedars-Sinai’s Minimally Invasive Urology Institute. He is one of the few surgeons who specialize in laparoscopic donor nephrectomy, which requires only a few small incisions to remove a kidney for transplantation. Minutes after Joan’s kidney was removed, a team headed by J. Louis Cohen, M.D., began the process of placing it into Soraya’s abdominal cavity and connecting it to her urinary system. Cohen is surgical director of Kidney Transplantation and medical director of Operating Room Services.

“This time last year, Soraya was living day to day, extremely ill and with no hope. Now she is back to herself – healthy, cheerful and energetic,” says Joan, 58. “And this is someone who was told that she was so highly sensitized that she could never get a kidney. We should have been totally hopeless, but somehow – I don’t know how – we kept thinking there has to be somebody doing something somewhere. And as it turned out, it was just in L.A. It’s over for us, but to think that there are other people, just like us, sitting in clinics, who don’t even have a clue.”

Soraya, who used to teach hi
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