A Positive Chain Reaction: The Sorianos One Year Later

For Allan Soriano, it was just a matter of time. Diagnosed in 1985 with a slow but progressive kidney disorder, Soriano was told by his doctor that his kidneys would fail in about 20 years.

Soriano stayed active. He took up scuba diving, played golf, enjoyed long hikes and traveled extensively—Mexico, the Caribbean, the Philippines, and Tibet. He liked his job as an application engineer at National Semiconductor.

Then, about two years ago, as his physicians had predicted would likely happen, Soriano developed end stage renal disease (ESRD), a condition in which the kidneys can no longer filter waste products from the blood. He needed a transplant to survive. No one in Soriano's family was a good transplant match for him. Nor was his wife, and he would have faced a six- to eight-year wait for a kidney in the Bay Area.

Allan and Josephine Soriano out on a golf course.
One year after participating in a nationwide kidney chain, Allan and Josephine Soriano are still active - scuba diving, travelling and golfing whenever they can.

In the United States, more than half a million people have ESRD; about 75,000 are on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. Demand outweighs the supply of donated organs, and more than 3,000 people die each year while waiting for a kidney transplant.

Then the San Jose couple heard about an innovative program called a kidney chain. Surgeons from four medical centers in California and New York would extract kidneys from three different living donors and perform transplants on three different recipients. No donor would know who received his or her organ.

 “I first heard about it when I tested to be a donor,” said Josephine, 39, a contract recruiter at Yahoo. “Time was going by, so I went back and asked them to tell me more.”

Stanford transplant surgeon Marc Melcher, MD, PhD, coordinated the chain. On Nov. 19, 2008, the Sorianos were wheeled into different operating rooms at Stanford as part of the chain. Less than 24 hours later they were on the phone, checking each other’s status.

“It was more logistically complicated than a standard transplant because there were multiple hospitals and more people involved,” said Allan. “But everything fell into place.”

The kidney chain protocol, improvements in minimally invasive surgery and the promise of an experimental “tolerance induction” protocol, have placed Stanford Hospital & Clinics at the forefront of kidney transplant programs. It was the only one among 240 kidney transplant centers nationwide that exceeded expected results in both patient and transplanted kidney survival at one and three years after transplantation, according to data reported by  the independent Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients. The registry’s data also shows that Stanford was the top program in one-year transplant kidney survival rates for four years running, from July 2000 to June 2004.

Three weeks after the kidney chain procedures, the couple was walking about three miles a day. Though Allan needs to take immunosuppressant drugs and be careful with his diet, life is pretty much back to normal, though he needed to take about six months leave from work. Because his kidney came from a living donor, it is expected to last twice as long as a deceased-donor organ.

“I am so grateful just that I am able to walk again,” he said. “I feel blessed that this allowed us to continue our lifestyle together and to see friends and family.”

Josephine admits she feels a little strange that she has no idea who received her kidney but is delighted she’s been able to help. “I feel so positive about this experience even though I was not able to donate directly to a loved one,” she said. “In some ways it’s better because this way I was able to help multiple people. Three people are off the waiting list because of this chain.”


About Stanford Hospital & Clinics
Stanford Hospital & Clinics is known worldwide for advanced treatment of complex disorders in areas such as cardiovascular care, cancer treatment, neurosciences, surgery, and organ transplants. Consistently ranked among the top institutions in the U.S. News & World Report annual list of "America's Best Hospitals," Stanford Hospital & Clinics is internationally recognized for translating medical breakthroughs into the care of patients. It is part of the Stanford University Medical Center, along with the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. For more information, visit http://stanfordmedicine.org.

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