Saint Barnabas Medical Center Performs Single Center Eight-Pair Kidney Transplant Chain: Transforming the Lives of 16 People

Published on June 10, 2014

The largest Paired Kidney Exchange at one facility in the region and one of the biggest in the United States took place at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, Livingston, NJ. This chain of eight transplants occurred over a three-day period beginning on Valentine’s Day and finishing on February 16, 2011. Eight people donated kidneys to eight recipients. On April 21, 2011, the donors and recipients met for the first time and learned whose lives were forever intertwined.

The Saint Barnabas Renal and Pancreas Transplant Program’s Living Donor Paired Exchange Program allows transplant candidates who have a willing but incompatible donor the option of joining an exchange registry to be matched with donor/recipient pairs in the same situation. While none of the couples matched each other in this eight-pair exchange, each was willing to donate to another person so that their loved one could receive a kidney.

It all began with an altruistic donor. One man who volunteered for an operation that offered no benefit to himself. It was a donation made solely to help others. From that first altruistic gift, through coordination, advanced technology and sophisticated computer modeling, the Saint Barnabas team built a chain that included six married couples, one set of friends, and one recipient from the transplant waiting list.

“When we came up with eight pairs, we knew we had a miracle on our hands,” explained Shamkant Mulgaonkar, MD, Chief of the Renal and Pancreas Division for Saint Barnabas Health Care System.

Barbara Mastroianni and Phillip Mastroianni were part of the chain. They have been married for 39 years and have two children. Diabetes had slowly destroyed Mr. Mastoianni’s kidneys. Last July, dialysis became a reality. Although Mrs. Mastroianni did not match her husband, she was desperate to try and help him. “I was watching my husband dying at home in a chair,” she shared. The exchange program allowed her to donate her kidney so that her husband could receive a kidney. “By participating in the exchange, I not only helped my husband but was able to help another family which is so special,” she added.

A staff of more than 200 professionals from Saint Barnabas Medical Center worked for months to meticulously orchestrate this transplant chain. The majority of participants were from New Jersey; one couple was from Staten Island. All of the transplants were performed as scheduled and all of the participants are feeling well. “This chain is a testament to the transformative power of kidney donation on the life of an individual and to that of their family,” remarked Dr. Mulgaonkar.

The Renal and Pancreas Transplant Division of Saint Barnabas Health Care System is one of the largest transplant programs in the United States. Saint Barnabas Medical Center has the first and only Living Donor Institute in NJ. Last year, 135 of the 298 transplants performed at Saint Barnabas were living donor surgeries. Currently, there are more than 90,000 patients with kidney disease on the national waiting list that has a waiting time of 5 to 7 years. Each day, 18 people die in this country unable to obtain an organ. Saint Barnabas Medical Center has 3000 patients on its transplant list. Living donor transplants, on average, last about twice as long as deceased donor transplants, thus transplantation with a living donor kidney is considered the best treatment option for those with end stage renal disease.