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Kidney voucher program helping families prepare for the future

Posted at 6:34 PM, Apr 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-30 21:40:21-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A new program at UC San Diego aims to help organ donors save lives now and later.

The Kidney Voucher Program allows donors to donate their kidney many years before their intended recipient may need one.

UC San Diego Health is the first San Diego transplant program to implement the voucher program, started in 2014. About 20 percent of transplant centers in the nation participate in the program, which is offered through the National Kidney Registry.

Once a person donates through the program, they will be able to save the life of a stranger immediately. If their loved one ultimately needs a kidney in the future, they will be moved to the top of the National Kidney Registry list.

The need for donors is great.

“On average we think about 20 people die every day waiting for a transplant, which includes all organs, and kidney is the longest list," said Dr. Jennifer Berumen, a UCSD transplant surgeon.

San Diego resident Virginia Sankey always hoped she would be able to help someone with organ donation.

“I just felt called to do it, I feel that I have my health, and I am blessed, and so many people are not as fortunate as I am," said Sankey.

She was beginning the process to donate altruistically until she realized her sister, who has type 1 diabetes, might need her kidney one day.

"It hit me that I probably shouldn’t give away my kidney if my sister might need one - so I then discovered the voucher program, and that set my mind at ease because I knew she would be taken care of in the future if she ever needed it," said Sankey.

So she parted ways with one of her kidneys in November, saving the life of a 48-year-old man who is a husband and father of four.

“I couldn’t imagine that it would feel as good as it felt," said Sankey.

Voucher Progam:

  • Donate Before You Are Too Old
  • Help Someone Who Is Not Yet In Need
  • And Help Others Currently In Need

Find out if you are a good candidate for UCSD's living donor program.