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Grandmother's kidney donation garners kidney voucher for granddaughter

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Janet Christenbury

The Emory Transplant Center and patient Jamie McNeil have together created a safety net for McNeil’s two-year-old granddaughter, while also starting a chain of kidney transplants through the National Kidney Registry’s (NKR) Donor Voucher Program. McNeil was Emory’s first participant in the voucher donor program, which allows donors to donate their kidney many years before their intended recipient may need a kidney transplant. Voucher recipients receive a “virtual voucher” for a living donor kidney to redeem when and if they may need it, and are registered on the NKR’s inactive list, often for many years.

The 56-year-old McNeil knew she always wanted to donate a kidney. A nurse by trade, she was aware of the benefits of living kidney donation for needy recipients. But when her twin granddaughters, Adele and Aubrey, were born two years ago, one baby was diagnosed with multicystic kidney disease. McNeil began researching how she could best help Adele, also called Delly.

Online research landed McNeil on the NKR’s voucher program site. The program gave McNeil the chance to help her granddaughter as well as a stranger who was waiting for a match on the paired kidney donor exchange wait 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 donate my kidney is going to be one of the most significant days of my life,” says McNeil prior to her surgery in September. “It will be one of the best feelings in the world to be able to give the gift of a kidney donation to someone. We must be the change we wish to see in this world and I wish to see more love, so I am going to be that love.”

With more than 100,000 people waiting on a kidney on the deceased-donor waiting list, living kidney donor programs are making a big difference for patients in need.

“By having a voucher donor, participating in living donation or receiving a kidney through the paired-donor exchange program, wait times are significantly shorter for recipients in need of a new kidney,” says Nicole Turgeon, MD, professor of surgery in the Department of Surgery, Division of Transplantation at Emory.

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

McNeil’s surgery was a success and her kidney donation began a chain of paired-donor kidney exchanges involving eight people and with four kidneys transplanted in grateful recipients. 

For more on the NKR’s Kidney Voucher Program or other ways to donate, visit:

For more on the Emory Transplant Center, visit:


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