Sunday, February 19, 2012

An Amazing Kidney Transplant Chain of 60 Operations, 30 Recipients, Based on an Algorithm, Trust, and Medical Experts

It all started with a Good Samaritan, who decided to donate one of his kidneys.

It ended, through a complex medical logistical chain, with 60 operations, and 30 kidney recipients (this would make the producers even of Grey's Anatomy proud) that reads like a dramatic, suspense story.

The New York Times has a brilliant article on this amazing, medical logistical feat, written by Kevin Sack.

The story features the Good Samaritan, an algorithm, and a network of medical, transportation and logistical specialists, along with the donors and recipients. The article shows how a long kidney transplant chain was successful in changing and saving people's lives. Fascinatingly, a long chain can do more good but there is more risk since someone along the chain might have sufficient time to renege.

According to The New York Times article: What made the domino chain of 60 operations possible was the willingness of a Good Samaritan, Mr. Ruzzamenti, to give the initial kidney, expecting nothing in return. Its momentum was then fueled by a mix of selflessness and self-interest among donors who gave a kidney to a stranger after learning they could not donate to a loved one because of incompatible blood types or antibodies. Their loved ones, in turn, were offered compatible kidneys as part of the exchange.

Interestingly, the new Editor of one of our flagship journals, Operations Research, Dr. Stefanos Zenios of Stanford University, is an expert on kidney matching issues and you can listen to a podcast interview with him, courtesy of Mr. Barry List, the Communications Director of INFORMS here.

My mother was on home kidney dialysis before she passed away and a friend has had one of her kidneys removed, so to see such an amazing medical logistical feat is truly inspiring.

I wish all the kidney donors and recipients good health. Thanks for what you did and thanks to the underlying analytics that provided crucial information!