Transplant News Sharing // News from Source

MORGANTOWN — WVU Medicine and the WVU Transplant Alliance have performed six kidney transplants since the program began in September 2019, and the program continues to build under the guidance of Dr. Lynsey Biondi.

“We’ve built a team of people here who have done transplants in multiple places across the country,” said Dr. Biondi, physician director of transplantation and surgical director for kidney transplant at WVU Medicine. “We brought them here so that people could get local care instead of traveling out of the state.”

Before this program was in place, a patient needing a transplant would have to travel to Pittsburgh or Baltimore.

“People are not having to leave this state and travel so far to get a transplant,” Biondi said. “And, I think we also worked to understand the needs of the people in West Virginia. We’re really finding that people had less education, less knowledge about transplants so even people that could be referred were not going because it’s overwhelming.”

Biondi noted that a kidney doesn’t just change your life by getting you off dialysis, it can actually add years to your life. The average life expectancy after receiving a transplant is 12 years.

“It’s quality and quantity of life,” Biondi said.

Education about kidney transplants is stressed by Biondi’s team. Potential transplant patients can be referred by their doctor or can call themselves for more information.

“We’ve really worked on teaching patients, and providing as much information for them as we can get, so that they can make a decision,” Biondi said. “We offer a one-hour class that was done in a group setting until COVID-19 hit, and we’ve had to switch to video and telephone calls. We go over the benefits and risks of kidney transplants, and what it entails.”

The official number of people needing kidney transplants in West Virginia is 271, but Biondi notes that is likely an underestimation, and that it will continue to grow.

The most common causes for kidney failure are diabetes and hypertension — which are prevalent in West Virginia. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and continuing to monitor blood sugar and blood pressure after being diagnosed are encouraged.

There are two types of kidney donors — living or deceased. WVU Medicine is currently only authorized to work with deceased donors, but is hopeful they will soon be allowed to work with living. A person waiting for a kidney gets put on a nationally-regulated list, and it can take up to five years to get a transplant.

“Those kidneys can still be great kidneys, and the majority of people getting transplants in this country get those,” Biondi said. “But you would need to wait on the list for those. If people ask me, ‘What do I need to do to be number one on the list?’ I tell them they need to find a living donor.”

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