From the Daily Herald | Matthew Moeller
Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital's Kidney Transplant Program completed its 50th transplant on March 14, 2022. The program is also expanding its services to include living kidney donor transplants.
Completing its first transplant in November 2020, the Hines program is one of only eight VA Kidney Transplant Programs in the country. The program initially planned for 10 transplants in its first calendar year. Due to a large national need and the dedication of program staff, Hines VA completed 36, the most kidney transplants completed compared to any other VA kidney transplant center in one year.
Before opening, area Veterans would travel to Pittsburgh or Iowa City, Iowa, for the nearest transplant evaluations and surgeries, including Robert Wayne Williams, a Chicago Army Veteran and Hines VA's first kidney transplant recipient.
"I was on dialysis for six years," said Williams. "I was traveling back and forth to Iowa. I was so hopeful when I found out Hines was going to start doing transplants, but I never thought I'd be the first."
"You can see it in his face. His level of excitement and his momentum - he's come back alive," Williams' wife Claudette said.
Just two and a half months into 2022, the Hines Kidney program has already completed 13 kidney transplants. With living donor transplants expected to begin by early summer, the program hopes to expand its successes even further.
According to Dr. Geraldine Zingraf, Transplant Program Administrator, a living donor can be a loved one, acquaintance or anonymous, and does not need to be a blood relative. The advantages of receiving a living donor kidney are:
It adapts to a new body more quickly.
It functions better overall.
It can last three to five years longer.
Most importantly, it typically takes six to nine months to receive a living kidney donation, compared to four to six years for a deceased donation.
"Our vets will be able to get a kidney transplant sooner instead of waiting years for a matching deceased donor," Zingraf explained. "The living donor transplants numbers will be in addition to the deceased donor transplants we are performing. It will expand our capabilities at Hines and increase our support to Veterans."
Everyone is encouraged to become a living donor and potentially save a life. To be evaluated, contact Loyola.DonorScreen.org
Living kidney donations and the Hines VA's Kidney Transplant Program is performed in collaboration with Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, a Department of Veterans Affairs academic affiliate.
Learn more about VA's transplant programs at www.VA.gov/Health/Services/Transplant
About Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital
Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital, located 12 miles west of downtown Chicago on a 147-acre campus, offers primary, extended and specialty care to veteran patients in the Chicago area. We are the largest VA in the state of Illinois, where more than a million veterans reside. The hospital treats more than 44,000 veterans from World War II through the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.