First paired kidney exchange transplant done in Singapore

Ms Siti Rasyidah Lokman Hadan (front, right), her mother Noor Rafidah Nasir (front left) and the team behind Singapore's first living paired kidney exchange transplant.
Ms Siti Rasyidah Lokman Hadan (front, right), her mother Noor Rafidah Nasir (front left) and the team behind Singapore's first living paired kidney exchange transplant.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - When doctors said that her daughter needed a new kidney, Madam Noor Rafidah Nasir immediately volunteered one of her own.

But then came the bad news - she and her daughter, Ms Siti Rasyidah Lokman Hadan, were not a match.

Ms Siti was put on dialysis while waiting for a donor, but time was running out. It was then that doctors put forth a novel proposal, known as a paired kidney exchange transplant.

Under this arrangement, a good Samaritan would donate his or her kidney to Ms Siti. In exchange, Madam Rafidah would give one of her own kidneys to someone on the national waiting list.

While this procedure has been approved since 2009, it has never been carried out due to the lack of a donor who is both willing and medically fit.

However, both mother and daughter saw it as a godsent opportunity.

"It was taking such a long time (to get a new kidney), and medically she was deteriorating," Madam Rafidah said. "I was very, very thankful when this idea came up."

All four patients went under the knife in April last year, and the transplants went through without a hitch.

Every year, said Professor A Vathsala, who is co-director of the National University Centre for Organ Transplantation at the National University Hospital, only two or three healthy people come forward to donate their kidneys. And of these, only one would be assessed as medically fit.

On the other hand, the average person on the national waiting list for a new kidney would have to wait nearly a decade for a new organ.

Previously confined to a wheelchair for four years before the transplant, Ms Siti is now able to get up and walk on her own.

"Before I was wheelchair-bound, I was quite an independent child," said the 23-year-old. "Just being able to walk is a big thing for me."