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Toledoan to 'pay off' daughter's new kidney

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THE BLADE Laurie Sarvo, right rear, will donate a kidney as part of a chain that allowed daughter Angela Heckman, center, to receive a kidney from Ron Bunnell, left. Surgeon Michael Rees, center, directs the program.

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Exactly seven weeks after her daughter underwent a kidney transplant, Laurie Sarvo today is scheduled to give a kidney to another person in need - and start the nation's second chain of donations involving those who cannot help their own loved ones.

Ms. Sarvo's daughter, Angela Heckman, in July was part of the first chain coordinated by the Alliance for Paired Donation Inc. in Maumee.

Ms. Sarvo could not donate a kidney to her daughter because the two Toledo women do not have the same blood type, but she is anxious to "pay it forward" by giving one to someone else at Ohio State University Medical Center, she said.

"I'm just ready to do this and get this done and get back home," Ms. Sarvo said yesterday as she and both of her daughters drove to Columbus.

Ms. Heckman, 32, said she is doing well after her operation on July 26, when she received a kidney donated by a Phoenix man, whose wife received one the week before from an altruistic Michigan donor, starting the first chain.

Ms. Heckman said she spent five days after her surgery at University of Toledo Medical Center, formerly the Medical College of Ohio, and is back to most normal activities.

Dr. Michael Rees, the UT kidney transplant surgeon who created and directs the alliance, started working on the new method for finding matches seven years ago in hopes of increasing the number of transplants.

Since the first chain started, more than 100 people have volunteered to be altruistic donors, and about 120 other potential kidney recipients with willing but nonmatching loved ones have registered, he said.

By comparison, there were 68 altruistic kidney donors nationwide last year, Dr. Rees said.

Not only will Ms. Sarvo donate a kidney today, but a loved one of the person receiving her kidney will donate to another person at OSU's hospital.

And that person's loved one will be matched with another kidney patient, starting one of three other chains in the works, Dr. Rees said.

So far, 56 transplant programs in 20 states are involved with the chain-donation program, dubbed the "never-ending altruistic donor," Dr. Rees said.

For more information about the alliance, go to the www.PairedDonation.org Web site.

"If you've got someone who loves you enough to give you a kidney who simply doesn't match you, we can help," he said.

Ms. Heckman, who had an autoimmune disorder that caused her kidneys to fail and will be able to support her mother as she had hoped, said she and her donor, Ron Bunnell of Phoenix, keep in contact through e-mails.

Both Mr. Bunnell and his wife, Barb Bunnell, are doing well, she said.

She also keeps in contact with dialysis personnel at UT, although she doesn't miss the treatments she needed for roughly 11 years.

"I miss the people," she said. "That's about it."

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:

jmckinnon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6087.

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