Kidney donors needed despite transplant milestone

A Williams Lake, B.C. woman, says she managed to cut five years off her wait for a new kidney thanks to a B.C. program that allows incompatible couples to swap kidney donors.

Average wait time for a kidney transplant in B.C. is seven years

Vancouver's St. Paul's Hospital marks 2,000th kidney transplant 2:24

A Williams Lake, B.C. woman, says she managed to cut five years off her wait for a new kidney thanks to a B.C. program that allows incompatible couples to swap kidney donors.

Nelda Gill recently underwent a kidney transplant at Vancouver's St. Paul's hospital. Her procedure was the hospital's 2,000th kidney transplant — a surgical milestone — since 1986.

"A person with my blood type would have to wait at least seven years for a kidney transplant, whereas I waited maybe two and it’s because of the paired exchange, which is fabulous," Gill said on Thursday.

The Paired Kidney Exchange started in 2006 and allows one incompatible couple to swap donors with another in order to minimize wait times.

Gill's husband, Glen, donated one of his kidneys so she could receive one from a matching donor.

"I needed a kidney and he is healthy to donate one, but not to me," Gill explained. "So they put us in a pool and they mix and match until they get a chain of recipients that all match together."

St. Paul's is one of three hospitals in the province that performs kidney transplants.

Living kidney donors on the rise

Living owner donations have steadily increased across the province, according the BC Transplant.

Thirty years ago, fewer than five per cent of organ donors were still alive.That number has risen to more than 50 percent, but doctors say the need for donors continues to be an urgent matter.

B.C. Liberal MLA Sam Sullivan urged British Columbians to register as kidney donors today.

"Transplants are an important treatment option for patients with kidney disease. However, as the number of people waiting for transplants grows, the need for donors also increases greatly," he said.

"We need people to sign up for the program and become an organ donor."