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By: Archie Graham

Archie Graham is a five time renal transplant patient and one of the leading speakers in his field. He discusses medical research, community organization, kidney health, dialysis, and health support as it relates to his 53 year journey of being the only five time Kidney Transplant recipient.

The average wait time for a first-time kidney transplant is between five and ten years.  I have been and I am continuously asked how have I been able to receive five kidney transplants and why have I had to receive so many?  After a few years, doesn’t the kidney last for the remainder of your life?

Recommended Reading: Which of these Ideas would You Support to Shorten the Wait Time for a Kidney Transplant?

I have been an End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) patient since the age of four, for fifty-three years.  I will be fifty-seven years old this year, I am proud and blessed to say. I had my first kidney transplant on Tuesday, July 16, 1968, when I was eleven years old.  My second kidney transplant was Thursday, November 3, 1977.  My third kidney transplant was Thursday, July 14, 1988.  My fourth kidney transplant was Wednesday, April 21, 2010.  My fifth kidney transplant was Saturday, February 18, 2012.  My five kidney transplants have been over a span of forty-four years.  Each one of my transplants was a cadaveric, non-related donor.  No one in my family of eight brothers and two sisters and two parents was eligible to donate a kidney.  Each and every family member was genetically mapped, revealing that renal failure was an inherited trait that was passed down on both sides of my family.  However, I had not received the trail.  I contracted ESRD from Strep Throat when I was four years old.  At that time, Strep Throat was the fourth major cause of renal failure in children.  

Recommended Reading: Donor Kidneys Represent 1% of All Deaths: Should We Be Able to Snatch Life from the Jaws of Death?

From the first kidney transplant to the fifth, the wait time in between each transplant became longer.  I waited only ten months for my first transplant.  For the second transplant, I waited eighteen months (1.5 years). I waited thirty months (2.5 years) for the third transplant.  I waited the longest for the fourth transplant.  I was put on the transplant list in April, 1998.  I received my fourth kidney transplant in April, 2010.  The day of the fourth transplant was almost twelve years, exactly, from the date I was placed on the list.  I waited twenty-three months, almost two years, for the fifth transplant.

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My first kidney transplant was performed during the “pioneering years” of organ transplantation.  The average life span of a cadaveric, non-related kidney transplant was five years.  My first transplant lasted eight years (1968 – 1976).  My second transplant lasted eight and one-half years.  The third transplant lasted from Thursday, July 14, 1988 to Saturday, November 3, 2001, the day I returned to dialysis. Due to unforeseen medical circumstances, the fourth kidney transplant lasted only six hours after the surgery.  This fifth kidney transplant has been doing very well for seventeen months. 

Recommended Reading: Quick and Insightful: Interview with Kidney Transplant Recipient

With each succeeding transplant, after the first, the body produces additional antibodies, due to blood transfusions and the transplanted kidney.  Donated blood, which is considered a tissue, along with the transplant initiates the immune system to respond by “fighting” these foreign entities that are in the body. This is why immunosuppressive medicines are given to suppress or “hold back” the immune system to reduce or decrease the possibility of the transplanted tissue (or allograft) from rejecting.  More appropriately, the medicines keep the immune system of the host body from producing antibodies that will attack the transplanted tissue.  Multiple transplants are usually required because at some point during the transplant, the immune system will overcome the immunosuppressive medicines, and, eventually attack the transplanted tissue, thereby causing the transplant to discontinue its function(s).  The physicians can prescribe up to a certain amount of immunosuppressive medicines before they become toxic to the host body.  At this limit, the medicines must be discontinued, and the transplant is allowed to discontinue its function(s).

Recommended Reading: Unwanted Effects of Immunosuppressants and What Kidney Transplant Patients Can Do About It

To combat the tissue transplant shortage, there are artificial organs being developed.  There is now a potential artificial, implantable kidney that will be going into clinical trials soon.  Theoretically, this should take care of the antibody situation with having multiple renal transplants.  However, there are always unforeseen challenges until the actual human trial results have been gathered and reviewed. 

Recommended Reading: Artificial Kidney Holds Promise for those Afflicted with ESRD

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