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Kidney Exchange Brings Couples Together to Save Wives

Just 4 weeks ago a new program called "Paired Exchange" gave new leases on life to both Jennifer Stoelting and Cristina Hunt. Both women desperately needed a kidney transplant.

Both were also married to men whose kidneys were incompatible with their own wives but not each other's wives. Now thanks to "paired exchange" Jennifer Stoelting has David Hunt's kidney and Cristina Hunt has Will Stoelting's kidney.

Jennifer Stoelting and Cristina Hunt thought they had no choice but to withstand several years of dialysis while they waited for a donated cadaver kidney. Testing revealed kidneys from their husbands and relatives were incompatible. Then Jennifer Stoelting was told her husband, William could be a successful donor for Cristina Hunt, whom she had never met.

Though Cristina knew her husband, David, could not donate a kidney to her benefit; she was told David's kidney would be compatible with Jennifer Stoelting. Though both couples were apprehensive at first, they eagerly met and complied with the process of medically qualifying for the procedure. On July 18th, four operating rooms were prepared for the process, called "Paired Exchange," and Jennifer received David's kidney and Cristina received William's kidney.

Both couples are doing well and spoke with the Early Show about their illness and recovery, as well as the miraculous event that changed their lives.

David Hunt, 31, is a Marine captain and says doctors detected a high level of protein in his wife Cristina's blood between their first and second child. A year after the birth of the second child, Cristina, 30, still had high protein in her blood. They found she had FSGS, focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a form nephritis. Over 2 years passed before she began to feel bad and was advised to begin dialysis at a clinic 3 days a week for 4 hours each time.

She did that for 2 months and then began peritoneal dialysis, which entails 9_ hours each night at night at home and filters the blood. She did that for 2_ years and finally got serious about seeing a kidney specialist in September 2000. David was then tested as a possible donor. He considered whether it would affect his military career, but it will not.

Cristina contracted pneumonia in January when David was supposed to donate his kidney. She was in the hospital on life support and unconscious for 18 days and could have died. Luckily they had a doctor in Mississippi who knew how to treat her kidney condition, and it saved her life. But her blood transfusions made her sick.

She returned home in mid-February of this year, missed her first transplant opportunity in January, and rescheduled for March. When she was getting ready for her for transplant, David was told he could not donate his kidney. In May he had another blood test, and it confirmed he could not donate. David was no longer a good donor because of the blood transfusion Cristina had had. Her body had developed antibodies againsDavid's blood.

The following day he was told about the Stoeltings, but he held off on any excitement until a cross-match test was done. But everything matched and worked out fine and they had the operation on July 18th.
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