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The Gift of Life Between Brothers

By Julia Cruz
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Correspondent

Jim Aiello is one of the lucky ones. When doctors told him he needed a kidney transplant earlier this year, he knew finding a donor would not be a problem.

"I have 11 brothers, a wife and three kids, so there were plenty of donors to go around," says the 46-year old telecommunications worker. "The best thing was that everyone wanted to give me their kidney. That made me feel good."

But not all patients in need of a transplant are as lucky as Jim. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, 19 people die each day waiting for organs to become available for transplants. Currently, more than 96,000 Americans are listed on the national transplant waiting list.

Organ donations come from two sources: people who volunteer to donate their organs when they die, and a growing number of living organ donors.

"Years ago almost all living donors were immediate family members of the person who needed the transplant. That has changed dramatically," says James Rodrigue, PhD, psychologist for Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center's Transplant Center. "Essentially, any adult over the age of 18 who is healthy and desiring to improve and extend the quality of another person's life is potentially eligible to be a living organ donor."

The Transplant Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center performs live-donor kidney transplants and made history in 1998 as the site of the first adult live-donor liver transplant in New England.

For anyone considering live organ donation, the process begins by meeting the transplant medical team - a nephrologist, surgeon, psychologist, and nurse coordinator. Potential donors share their medical history and undergo multiple medical tests to determine whether they are healthy and can donate their organs without putting themselves or a recipient at risk. A session with the transplant psychologist or social worker ensures the potential donor has considered the benefits and risks of the procedure and is psychologically stable.

"It's important that any potential donor understands the psychological aspects of undergoing this procedure - how their relationship with the recipient might change and the psychological impact there might be if the organ doesn't work," says Rodrigue.

For Charles Aiello, there were few concerns and no expectations about donating his kidney -- only an opportunity to help his younger brother Jim.

"I wasn't concerned at the beginning, but as the operation got closer I started to get nervous because I'd never been operated on before," says Aiello. "We talked to a social worker at the hospital and she made me feel better. She helped us out a lot."

Their surgery was a success and while the Aiello brothers dealt with some soreness the first few days, they were both back at work within two weeks.

"It's been 8 weeks since the operation and I feel back to normal," says donor Charles Aiello. "I can't lift heavy objects or strain myself but I feel 100% normal."

The vast majority of live-organ donors are extremely satisfied after undergoing the procedure. According to Rodrigue, many describe it as a highlight of their life. Jim Aiello says his brother's generosity has given him a new lease on life.

"I feel closer to him," says Jim. "We were close before, but not this close. Now I've got a part of him in me."

To contact the Transplant Center at Beth Israel Deaconess, call 617-632-9700 or visit www.bidmc.org/transplant.

Now you can register to become an organ donor online. Visit The New England Organ Bank at www.DonateLifeNewEngland.org

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted December 2009

Contact Information

Transplant Institute
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Lowry Medical Office Building, 7th Floor
110 Francis Street
Boston, MA 02215
617-632-9700

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