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John Tracy

Kidney donation chain a first for the region

John Tracy knew that a beloved family member, Priscilla Deshayes, was receiving dialysis to treat her kidney disease. But a Thanksgiving visit in 2009 left him shaken.

"She was just a shell of herself. It hit me in the gut. I remember telling her, 'We're going to get you a kidney. I can't stand seeing you like this,'" recalled Tracy.

Deshayes had been evaluated by Abbott Northwestern's kidney transplant team and was on the waiting list for a transplant. Even though Tracy's kidney was incompatible, he was still able to help.

"Anything that would get Priscilla a kidney, I wanted to do," he said. He and Deshayes enrolled in the paired exchange donor program, which matches an incompatible kidney donor/recipient with other donors and recipients who are compatible.

It required that Tracy complete an extensive health evaluation to ensure that his kidney was healthy and that his own health would not be compromised in any way.

In July 2010, "things started moving," said Tracy.

It began with a non-directed donor - a person who elected to donate a kidney to the most compatible recipient on the waiting list. This donor in Minneapolis was a match for a recipient in Fargo. The Minneapolis kidney was flown to Fargo. Two surgeries later, a kidney from Fargo was driven to Minneapolis, extending the chain with four more transplants in Minneapolis. This included Deshayes and another recipient at Abbott Northwestern.

In total, ten people produced five successful kidney transplants, the first kidney donation chain in the region.

Tracy recalled that after the transplant, Deshayes looked better right away.

"But it really hit home about a month-and-a-half later," he said. "I got a call from Priscilla and we started having one of those conversations like we used to have. I realized, this is why I did this. I was so happy because I wanted her back and I got her back."