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In helping his brother, Kelso man starts 'chain reaction' of kidney donations

In helping his brother, Kelso man starts 'chain reaction' of kidney donations


Josh Reynolds’ recent kidney donation caused a ripple effect across the nation.

The Kelso man on Wednesday checked into the Legacy Good Samaritan hospital in Portland to donate a kidney to an Ohio man he’s never met. That donation will spur a series of other kidney transplants for other patients in need — including his half-brother, Zack Reynolds.

The brothers are part of an “advanced paired donation,” or a transplant program that will fast-track Zack’s search for a donor in exchange for Josh’s kidney donation to a stranger.

“We call it my golden ticket,” Zack Reynolds said. “They will find me the exact aged kidney for me … so I should be able to live a full life if everything goes well.”

Zack Reynolds, 26, of Kelso suffers from stage 5 chronic kidney disorder. He has spent nearly three years on dialysis since his kidneys stopped working due to high blood pressure and a botched biopsy, he said.

Doctors estimate his life expectancy is about seven to 12 years if he doesn’t receive a kidney transplant.

“Once someone donates a live kidney, the estimate of lifespan goes to … 40 years,” he said. “Kidneys are not a cure. It’s just a better quality of life. So I won’t have to go to dialysis three times a week, sit in a chair five hours a day.”

Josh Reynolds, 28, planned to donate his kidney directly to Zack. But the men have different mothers, and the organ wasn’t a perfect match.

“He was pretty close, but there was one chromosome off,” Zack Reynolds said.

Although their father was a match, his kidneys are about double the age of Zack’s. Doctors prefer living donors to be closer in age, Josh Reynolds said.

So the doctors offered advanced paired donation as an alternative. The special transplant program allows a donor who is not a good medical match for one transplant candidate to donate to someone else so their candidate can jump forward in the waiting list.

For Zack, the program will cut the maximum wait-time for a transplant from about two years to about three months.

There are two types of advanced paired donation, a “swap” and a “chain reaction.” In the swap, there are exactly two donors and two recipients, said Josh Reynolds’s mother, Angie. In the chain reaction, several donors and recipients that are “all compatible in some way” can sign up, and one donation spurs the next, she said.

“The chain reaction one worked out better for me because I was able to choose a surgery date,” Josh Reynolds said. But the significance of picking the more convenient is not lost on him or his family.

“Once Josh donated, and the doctors took the kidney out of him, it immediately started the process of three other people donating, which led to three other people getting new kidneys and getting a new chance at life,” his mom said.

The donation chain almost hiccuped when a medical problem with Zack’s leg removed him from the donor wait list. He has to wait for clearance from the doctors before he can get back on the list and receive a transplant.

Zack said he should hear back from the doctors next week.

“There was a moment there when we weren’t sure what would happen because Zack wasn’t cleared to complete his part of it. … Part of what helped Josh make the decision to move forward was knowing there was a recipient on the other end who was waiting for a kidney,” his mother said. “If Josh backed out, what would that mean for that kid and his family?”

So Josh forged ahead. As it worked out, the program allows Zack to hold off the transplant until he is medically cleared, and “as soon as his clearance comes through, the process picks right back up,” Angie Reynolds said.

The brothers may never meet the man in Ohio whose life changed as a consequence of Josh’s kidney donation. Nor will they know exactly how many people were involved in the paired donation chain.

But Josh Reynolds says he wants to start the process to some day meet the man. For now, he knows his organ helped an Ohio man in his 20s get “a chance to have a normal life.”

“And we don’t even know what those three (other) donors led to, because they will have a chain reaction as well,” said his mother. “It’s been a pretty amazing process.”


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