koi and swan, sepia

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Mind if I kvell?

You have heard me mention my friend BigD many times over the years. Friends for over 38 years, college roommates, we have hung together through thick and thin and many personal travails. One of those select few people I can always count on no matter what.

My brother Buzz called me today to let me know that there was an article mentioning Dave on the front page of the Huffington Post. It is gone now but here is the upshot, from the A.P.:
Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Zully Broussard thought she was going to help one person by donating a kidney. Instead, she helped six.
The Sacramento woman’s donation to a Benicia man set off an organ swap that resulted in five more sick people getting new kidneys at a San Francisco hospital. Three transplants were planned for Thursday, and the remaining three Friday.
“I thought I was going to help this one person who I don’t know, but the fact that so many people can have a life extension, that’s pretty big,” Broussard said.
Domino-like kidney swaps are still relatively new but are becoming increasingly common.
With a total of a dozen patients and donors, this week’s surgeries at the California Pacific Medical Center represent the largest kidney donation chain in its transplant center’s 44-year history, hospital spokesman Dean Fryer said. The patients at are between 24 to 70 years old, and most are from the San Francisco Bay Area.
Transplant chains are an option when donors are incompatible with relatives or friends who need kidneys.
In this case, six donors are instead giving kidneys to strangers found through a software matching program developed by 59-year-old David Jacobs, a kidney recipient whose brother died of kidney failure. Its algorithmic program finds potential matches using a person’s genetic profile.
Jacobs, of San Francisco, said he understands first-hand the despair of waiting for a deceased donor.
“Some of these people might have waited forever and never got the kidney,” he said. “But because of the magic of this technology and the one altruistic donor, she was able to save six lives in 24 hours.”
Fewer than 17,000 kidney transplants are performed in the U.S. each year, and between 5,000 and 6,000 are from living donors, considered the optimal kind.
Kidney swaps are considered one of the best bets at increasing live-donor transplants, and they are becoming more common as transplant centers form alliances to share willing patient-donor pairs. The United Network for Organ Sharing has a national pilot program underway.
In 2001, Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, performed a transplant chain that started as a two-way kidney exchange and grew to 30 pairs.
Jacobs’ kidneys failed in early 2000 from a genetic disease. In late 2003, a living unrelated donor provided an organ for a transplant.
A new chance at life got him thinking.
“I talked to my doctor about kidney-paired donation. He was excited about the idea but didn’t know how to do it,” he recalled. “I was a tech person. I’ve been in technology my whole professional career. I thought of it as an enterprise software problem I could solve.”
He said the two months he imagined it would take to take to develop the software stretched into six years.
The National Kidney Foundation reports more than 100,000 people in the United States are awaiting kidneys, and 12 people die a day while waiting.
Broussard said her son died of cancer 13 years ago and her husband passed away 14 months ago, also from cancer.
Asked why she volunteered to donate a kidney to a stranger, the 55-year-old said: “I know what it feels like to want an extra day.”

And the SFGate:
Surgeons at San Francisco’s California Pacific Medical Center began the first of a series of operations over two days Thursday morning in a rare six-way kidney swap that was started by a woman who wanted to donate a kidney to help save a life, but didn’t have anyone to give it to.
The first three transplants got under way at about 7:30 a.m. at CPMC’s Pacific Campus in Pacific Heights with one donor-recipient pair. At about 10 a.m., surgery began on a second pair. This one involved Zully Broussard, the 55-year-old Fair Oaks (Sacramento County) woman who began the chain of giving.
By about 12:45 p.m., Broussard’s kidney had been removed and the surgery completed, and by then, the third and final paired surgery of the day had begun, hospital spokesman Dean Fryer said. Three additional pairs of surgeries are scheduled for Friday. Except for Broussard, the identities of the donors and recipients are being kept private until after the surgeries.
“Everything went very well,” Fryer said. “It went very smoothly. There was no tension in the operating room, and everyone was doing what they do.”
The surgical marathon, believed to be the largest to take place at a single hospital on the West Coast, is a complex, carefully orchestrated series of operations involving six donors and six recipients, five surgeons, a team of anesthesiologists, physician assistants, nurses and additional support for a total of more than 60 staff members.
The donors and recipients range in age from 26 to 70 and include three parent-and-child pairs, one sibling pair, and one brother- and sister-in-law pair.
Broussard’s kidney is going to a Benicia man whose sister-in-law is giving her kidney to a Fresno mother. The Fresno woman’s son is a match for a woman in Greenbrae, and that recipient’s daughter’s kidney is going to a San Francisco woman, and so on.
Each surgery can take up to three hours, but Broussard’s took just an hour and a half. Fryer said the removal of a kidney from the healthy donor tends to go more quickly than transplantation into the kidney patient.
Recovery typically takes two to three days in the hospital for donors, and up to five days for recipients. Doing the transplants consecutively reduces the risk of a donor or recipient developing a medical condition that would disqualify them, or of one of the participants backing out, hospital officials say.
California Pacific Medical Center is no stranger to complex kidney transplant surgeries. The hospital, which performs more than 200 kidney transplants a year, successfully completed a five-way swap four years ago.
More than 100,000 Americans are awaiting kidney transplants. Since few patients are lucky enough to have a compatible donor, many die waiting for the life-saving operation.
But pairing willing donors with compatible recipients is getting easier with technology, and that’s changing the stakes.
The hospital used a computer program developed by David Jacobs, a San Francisco software expert and kidney recipient. It allows people who are willing to give their kidney to a friend or relative but are found incompatible to be paired with a matching patient. In cases like this, multiple pairs are connected.
Broussard said Wednesday that she had originally hoped to donate her kidney to a friend. But after those plans fell through, she still wanted to help save a life.
“I’ve been given a lot in my life, but I’ve also had a lot of loss,” said Broussard, who has lost both a son and her husband to cancer. “I know what it feels like to want an extra day.”
BigD, David Jacobs, knows all about kidney problems and transplants. He has a condition known as polycystic kidney disease, a disease that killed his younger brother and I believe his father as well and also affects his sister. From IT News:
The six-way donor and recipient matches were identified using the BiologicTx Paired Donation kidney matching software called MatchGrid. MatchGrid is a sophisticated algorithmic program that enables multiple incompatible pairs to be matched with each other. The software matches the genetic characteristics of all those involved and then generates a series of matches in which each donor is matched with a transplant candidate they don't know but who is compatible with the kidney being donated.
BiologicTx Paired Donation's MatchGrid software was created by David Jacobs, who came up with the idea after he underwent a kidney transplant at CPMC in 2003. He realized that there were many potential donors who were in effect being lost to the system because they didn't match their friend or loved one.
"Being a kidney transplant patient myself, it's extremely gratifying to know my software helped make this six-way kidney paired donation possible," Jacobs said. "I understand first-hand the despair of waiting for a deceased donor organ and how life changing it is to receive a living donor kidney. When I was on dialysis and didn't have a compatible donor, I knew that paired-kidney exchange was possible, but at the time, there was no practical way to set up matches on a large scale.  Three months after undergoing a kidney transplant, I started building MatchGrid."
Dave developed the disease and after a nightmare of struggles and dialysis, was finally able to find a kidney donor. Unfortunately the anti rejection drugs used at the time caused a lot of other problems and he developed lymphoma. Things were really touch and go for Dave for a while. Many of you may still remember the pictures I took of our trip to the Valley of Fire. Thankfully he is all right now.

Dave was a honcho at Microsoft, Marimba and Macromedia. He could have sat back and made a great living in the computer world but he decided to give something back instead and invested years of time and all of his money developing new software and algorithms for kidney pairing so other people would have an easier time getting matching kidneys. I have the utmost respect for my friend.

I counted over 264 articles about Dave and the transplant on google search this afternoon. When I called him today, after Buzz called me, he had no idea that HuffPo had run the story. Now it has gone viral and he has had major interviews all day with various news entities around the world including the BBC.

I applaud my friend's hard work and can't tell you how proud I am of him.

You see this hits home for me as well. My brother Buzz, is suffering from an arcane kidney disease called FSGS, is undergoing dialysis and needs a kidney desperately. He is way down the list up in Canada. I would give him one of mine but unfortunately only have one, having lost the left one to kidney cancer. It is not so hard for me to visualize the work my friend is doing somehow saving my dear brother's life. I pray that he has time and I pray that we find a donor.


Max Hall said...

What a fantastic story about your friend Big D! My old high school friend Bryan Ingraham from Cardiff received a kidney five years ago from his sister Sarah. He was on Death's door before the surgery, but has made a remarkable recovery since then. We had a fundraiser for him at the Belly Up Tavern to help pay for his aftercare costs. All the best to your brother Buzz.

Unknown said...

Thanks Rob, think I'm a little over expose right now. Appreciate the post. Real hero in this story is the Altruistic donor who even though suffered great loss twice in the last 10 years was still willing to give. Look at what the incredible effect was. i'm also really proud that Silicon Valley can do more then create phones and social networks—it can help save lives.