Emory University | Woodruff Health Sciences Center
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Pay it Forward

For the love of a child, four strangers were saved

By Janet Christenbury

Story Photo

Jamie McNeil with twin granddaughters Adele and Aubrey, soon after they were born. Adele has a condition that may result in the need for a new kidney later, which her grandmother’s current donation secures. Photo provided by family.

Jamie McNeil’s twin granddaughters, Adele and Aubrey, were born two years ago. Adele, known as “Delly,” was soon diagnosed with multicystic kidney disease.

McNeil, a nurse, began researching how she could best help Delly. She found her answer through the Emory Transplant Center and the National Kidney Registry’s donor voucher program.

The voucher program creates a safety net for Delly, while also starting a chain of kidney transplants that involved eight patients—four of them recipients—across the United States. McNeil was Emory’s first participant in the voucher donor program.

“My mom’s selfless decision to donate her kidney to a stranger makes her a true hero,” says Meghann Adams, Aubrey and Adele’s mother. “I can’t wait until Delly is old enough to truly understand the sacrifice her grandma has made for her.”

Voucher recipients like Adele receive a “virtual voucher” for a living donor kidney to redeem when and if they need it, and they are registered on the national registry’s inactive list, often for many years. The national registry’s voucher program site gave McNeil the chance to help Adele as well as a stranger waiting for a match on the paired kidney donor exchange list.

The paired-donor exchange program is available for recipients who do not have a donor match, but who have a donor willing to match with someone else so their loved one can receive a kidney.

“The day I donated my kidney was one of the most significant days of my life,” said McNeil, who had her surgery in September. “It was one of the best feelings in the world to be able to give the gift of a kidney donation to someone.”

Jessie McNeil and family on vacation

With more than 100,000 people waiting for a kidney on the deceased-donor list, living kidney donor programs are making a huge difference. Emory’s kidney transplant program has performed more than 1,300 living donor transplants to date.

“Jamie is our first patient who has come forward to be a voucher donor,” says Nicole Turgeon, professor of surgery in the division of transplantation at Emory. “She immediately let us know that this was for her granddaughter, Adele, who does not need a kidney at this time but may in the future. Now Adele will have the opportunity to get a living-donor kidney later in life if she needs one, as a result of Jamie’s good will.”

To learn more about kidney transplant and Emory’s Living Donor Kidney Program, visit emoryhealthcare.org/kidneytransplant or call 855-366-7989.

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