San Francisco hospital begins rare six-way kidney transplant chain

SAN FRANCISCO (REUTERS) - Doctors at a San Francisco hospital began an unusual series of kidney transplants on Thursday with six living donors providing organs to six patients in a chain that began with a woman described as an altruistic donor unrelated to any of the recipients.

The first donor and recipient went into surgery at California Pacific Medical Centre at 7.30am, with two more donor-recipient pairs on the schedule for Thursday, then the remaining three pairs on Friday, hospital spokesman Dean Fryer said.

The chain of donations began when Zully Broussard, 55, of Sacramento, whose son and husband both died of cancer, offered to donate a kidney to a friend, but the friend ultimately had to use another donor, according to hospital officials.

Still willing to donate, even to a stranger, Broussard was matched with a man from Benicia, California, triggering a domino effect.

That man's sister-in-law, who was not a match for him, agreed to donate her kidney to a Fresno woman, while her son, in turn, would be a donor for another woman, and on it went.

"I'm excited, not nervous," Broussard told San Francisco's KNTV news on the eve of surgery.

"I know there's going to be a life out there that's extended. I feel like there is a higher power behind all this, making it happen. I didn't realise it was so huge. I'm just a small part of the chain."

The six-way transplant involving a dozen people is the largest kidney swap in the 44-year history of California Pacific's transplant centre.

In 2011, the hospital became the state's first to do a five-way swap, Fryer said.

"It is just amazing that we're able to create this large of a chain within a single hospital," Fryer said.

"You've got six people who now have a second chance at life."