NEWTON, Mass. (AP) -- Two families with loved ones in need of kidney transplants seemed to be out of luck -- until they found each other.
In a rare medical matchup, Emily Smith donated a kidney to Sara St. Pierre while St. Pierre's father, Fred, did the same for Smith's sister, Brittany. The donors weren't compatible with their own relatives.
"I remember feeling an awful lot along the lines of not being able to help my daughter and being there for her," Fred St. Pierre said. "But this way worked out for my family and theirs."
Doctors who performed the transplants in two Boston hospitals Aug. 27 said the procedures are among a small number of family-to-family swaps of live organs.
More than 53,000 patients in the United States are waiting for a kidney transplant, and about 2,800 die waiting for them each year.
Sara St. Pierre, 22, of Charlestown, N.H., was suffering from reflux nephropathy, a renal disease that causes progressive kidney failure. She had been receiving frequent dialysis since her kidneys failed completely four years ago.
When Fred St. Pierre's found out he wasn't a match for her, he put his name on a live donor list exchange. That meant he agreed to donate to anyone who matched his blood type in exchange for his daughter being moved up the transplant waiting list.
About 50 miles away in Milford, N.H., Brittany Smith, 16, had lost function of a kidney that her father had donated after meningitis caused her own kidneys to break down. Emily Smith, 18, was the family's only potential source of a new kidney, but she was the wrong blood type.
"They weren't a match and we thought that was it," said their mother, Christine. "Then we got a call, saying they wanted to try something new."
The swap, coordinated by the New England Organ Bank, "helped me get my whole life back," Sara St. Pierre said. "There's no easy way to say how grateful I am to Emily."
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