Utahn’s gift starts life-saving domino line of kidney donations
Sometimes life calls on you to do something big, which is how Edward Bartling describes his decision to donate a kidney.
“I’ve had help from others and had been thinking about how to pay it forward for years,” said the 51-year-old aeronautical engineer from Morgan. “I see such harshness in the world and had the desire to do something more than what we can do on a daily basis.”
His gift, offered in March, allowed doctors at the University of Utah and Primary Children’s Medical Center to stitch together a kidney-donation chain that saved the lives of three people in Utah and Idaho, including a 2-year-old child.
The transplants were done over two days last week and “went very well,” said U. transplant surgeon Jeffrey Campsen at a news conference Tuesday.
More than 88,000 people in America are waiting for a kidney transplant, 12 of whom will die today for lack of donors, according to the Alliance for Paired Donation.
Paired donations, or chains, are a strategy to grow the donor pool by leveraging the good will of individuals who want to donate to a friend or family member but can’t because their immune systems or blood types are incompatible. The chains allow these donors to swap kidneys with other donor-recipient pairs.
They also make it possible to schedule the surgeries back to back under optimal conditions, said Raoul Nelson, a nephrologist at Primary Children’s. “And a living donation means improved kidney survival and longevity.”
Bartling was the good Samaritan in the equation, having no relation to anyone in the U.’s six-person domino line.
His kidney, harvested last Thursday, went to 40-year-old Brandy Jess of Idaho Falls. She had been waiting since July, when she learned her 37-year-old friend, Kristy Buffington, wasn’t a good match.
“We had arranged our hotel and had received our ID bracelets from the hospital when we got the result,” recalled Buffington, whose cells attacked her friends’ cells when mixed in the lab. “It was so discouraging.”
Buffington, however, was a good fit for 2-year-old Beckham Fershtut of Layton, who was born with a congenital defect that left his kidneys functioning at 12 percent of their usual capacity.
The toddler’s father, Ari Fershtut, was able to give his kidney to Utahn Juan Romero, 45. Due to his rare blood type, Romero had been waiting on dialysis for three years.
“Any parent would take upon them their child’s illness, their pain and their suffering. Most don’t get to. All they can do is sit at their bedside and try to comfort them,” said Fershtut, expressing his gratitude to the other donors, calling them the “true heroes.”
“Because of their willingness to give of themselves,” he said, “our little boy is going to have a normal and healthy life.”