Doctors Perform First Kidney Swap in West Virginia

West Virginia has the highest rate of kidney failure in the country

A few weeks ago, two West Virginia families had never met. Today, they have a lifetime bond.

Brian King, of Charleston, needed a kidney transplant. So, too, did David Kent, of Tornado. And each had family members – Brian’s wife, Pam, and David’s son, Dustin – who were eager to offer up one of their kidneys as donors.

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The first kidney swap in West Virginia took place at Charleston Area Medical Center, whose Kidney Transplant Center is affiliated with Cleveland Clinic. (Source: Cleveland Clinic)

But while they weren’t blood type matches for their loved ones, Pam King proved to be a match for David Kent; and Dustin Kent was a match for Brian King. And thanks to two Cleveland Clinic surgeons and the transplant team at Charleston Area Medical Center (CAMC), whose Kidney Transplant Center is affiliated with Cleveland Clinic, they completed West Virginia’s first-ever paired kidney exchange, or “kidney swap.”

“This was made possible by the heroic acts of altruism and love by the donors,” said Dr. Joseph Africa, CAMC Kidney Transplant Director. “With the current scarcity of organs, this type of intervention can make a big difference in alleviating a health crisis in West Virginia, which has the highest incidence of end stage renal disease in the country,”

Both donors, Pam King and Dustin Kent, were devastated when they discovered they weren’t a match for their loved ones. But when Alice Jones, the CAMC transplant coordinator, discovered that Pam was a match for David and Dustin was a match for Brian, neither hesitated to donate.

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Dustin Kent and Brian King meet for the first time a week before the transplant. (Courtesy: CAMC)

“I’m really grateful I could donate,” a tearful Pam said at a news conference. “It has been the best of outcomes for everybody.” Her husband Brian added, “It has been remarkable to meet ‘new family.’”

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Dave Kent and Pamela King meet one week before surgery. (Courtesy: CAMC)

To prepare for the surgeries, the donors’ surgeon – Dr. Alvin Wee, Cleveland Clinic’s Kidney Transplant Surgical Director – regularly collaborated with Dr. Africa, the recipients’ surgeon, using the two facilities’ telemedicine capabilities.

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Cleveland Clinic doctors Joseph Africa and Alvin Wee performed the kidney transplants. (Courtesy: CAMC)

For the operations, Dr. Wee flew to Charleston. On Monday Jan. 29, he removed a kidney from Pam King, and Dr. Africa transplanted it into David Kent. The next day, Dr. Wee removed a kidney from Dustin Kent, and Dr. Africa transplanted it into Brian King.

Each operation was a success. Both donors and recipients are recovering normally.

As Dr. Wee explained, “This is a historical moment in the state of West Virginia and for these two remarkable families. We’re honored that we’ve been able to make this vital service available.”

According to donor Dustin Kent, “Having people you don’t even know be willing to do something like this for your family is huge.” His father David added, “We’re all doing well and things are looking up.”

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