Siblings share special bond after participating in VCU’s kidney exchange program

10 On Your Side

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Shawnte Williams has gone through not one, not two, but three kidney transplants.

Her first transplant was given to her by one of her brothers, the second came from a deceased donor.

“It was heartbreaking, it was hard to accept the last time my kidneys failed,” Williams said.

But this last transplant a few months ago, was a little different.

Another one of her brothers, Freddie, wanted to give her his kidney, but he wasn’t a match.

Shawnte knew of a living donor paired kidney exchange program at Virginia Commonwealth University, so she looked into that option a little more.

Even though her brother wasn’t a match for her, he could be a match for someone else and help his sister get a kidney faster.

So Shawnte and Freddie entered the exchange program as a pair.

Freddie gave his kidney to someone else he matched with on the list, and someone else on that list then gave their kidney to Shawnte.

Living donation medical director at VCU Layla Kamal explains the advantages of joining this program. “Getting a kidney from someone who is alive is much better than getting a kidney from someone who died this is the first advantage,” she said.

Kamal said doing this will optimize antibody and blood type matching and decrease the risk of acute rejection and the kidney will last longer. She said they’re also able to match pairs on a few other things.

“Even if the pairs are compatible in terms of anti body and blood type we found if we match them to their size kidney size or age of the donor and recipient or maybe gender, we can improve their outcomes,” Kamal said.

Kamal says this also speeds up the time it takes someone to get a kidney.

Instead of waiting on the transplant list for years, the operation can happen quickly once the match is found out of a local and national pool.

Freddie remembers making that decision to give up his kidney.

“It was a little scary and hard at the same time i have a family i have two small kids and a wife i have to consider as well, but at the same time you have your sister you want to make sure shes taken care of,” he said.

On June 24, Freddie and Shawnte went in for surgery.

“I was very very nervous and a little scared,” Freddie said.

Shawnte said, “You still have that risk of it not taking that’s always the chance whether it’s your first or third time.”

Freddie was released three days later, and recovered well.

“I feel good I’m out coaching my son with smith field pop Warner football I’m out there running and coaching and cheering and yelling,” Freddie said.

Shawnte was released four days later and is now back driving, doing normal activities and even working.

Now the siblings share an even closer bond.

“I know its a blessing because I know everybody doesn’t have someone to donate, it’ll give you a second chance at life,” Shawnte said.

Kamal said if you’re interested in the program, all you have to do is get evaluated by doctors and they’ll figure out the rest.

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