Kristin, 22, was diagnosed with gastroparesis, or paralysis of the stomach, which prevents the stomach from emptying food in a normal fashion. Her organs were failing, and she needed a new stomach, pancreas, liver and small and large intestine to live. In May 2009, a 6-year-old boy who died in a car accident proved to be an organ match, and doctors performed the marathon five-hour surgery.
"These are called cluster transplants," says Dr. Robert Montgomery, director of the Comprehensive Transplant Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital. "They're pretty rare, because the indications, the reasons why somebody would need that many organs replaced, is unusual. Kristen is a living example of that miracle."
After the surgery, Kristin's skin which had turned yellow because of her organ failures, returned to its normal color. She joins The Doctors by phone to reveal how she is feeling. "I am great!" she says. "I've come such a long way. I have energy now ... I'm driven, and I'm progressively getting healthier and better.
"I honestly wouldn't be here with you guys today if that family [of the 6-year-old boy] chose not to donate," Kristin adds. "I think that it's very important for everyone to become an organ donor, and sign the back of their license and check off that little box. We have the power to save lives."
Approximately 83,000 people in the United States are waiting for a kidney transplant, and the average wait is four to five years. More than 30 percent of patients will die before a matching donor is found.
Wendy, 40, was born with polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disorder that causes multiple cysts to form on the kidneys, eventually leading to a diseased organ. Her disease had progressed to the point where she needed a new kidney to live. Her husband, Jeff, 41, wanted to donate his kidney but wasn't a match for Wendy. The couple turned to a kidney swap to find the organ, where Jeff donates his kidney to a matching patient in need, and Wendy receives a compatible kidney from someone else in the chain.
"Kidney-pair donation is a fairly recent phenomenon," Dr. Montgomery says. "There's a fairly large group of people who have a willing donor [but] can't receive the kidney from that donor because of an incompatibility. We try to match those people up with other donors in a pool and create a situation where everyone can receive a compatible organ."
John, 60, didn't know Wendy but donated his kidney to her so his wife, Barbara, 58, could get the organ she needed to live. Jeff's kidney went to Ron, 63. The five members of the kidney swap chain, along with Ron's wife, Dottie, join The Doctors in an emotional first meeting.
• Learn more about kidney swaps and organ donation
• Dr. Montgomery discusses the safety of donating a kidney
At-Home Dialysis Machine
Kidney dialysis helps perform the function of failed kidneys, such as removing excess fluid and waste from the blood, and can be physically and mentally exhausting for a person. A new at-home dialysis machine may alleviate some of the stress. The NxStage System One is a portable dialysis system that allows patients to undergo dialysis in the comfort of their home. Find out how it works, and hear from Vanessa, 35, who has used the NxStage System One for nearly four years.
Before using the NxStage machine, Vanessa would spend a debilitating four hours in a dialysis clinic, three days a week. "I would come home totally wiped out," she says. "I hardly could walk, no energy. You feel like you ran a marathon and got hit by a train at the same time. You just feel awful.
"It has totally, totally changed my life," Vanessa says. "Now [with the NxStage System One] I do it six days a week for about two hours each time," she continues. "I never feel like I don't have energy. It's given me my life back."
E.R. physician Dr. Travis Stork explains that the NxStage System One is not for everyone, however. Talk to your doctor about at-home dialysis if you are interested.
Going to the hospital, even for a minor procedure, can be frightening for many. The Doctors reveal what you must know before going under the knife.