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HEALTH REPORT - Kidney Transplants

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This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Each year, thousands of people receive organ transplants. The most common of these operations is a kidney transplant. Experts say almost thirty-thousand people received new kidneys last year. Fourteen-thousand of them were in the United States.

One person who received a new kidney earlier this year was Ray Freeman. Many of you know him. Ray worked at VOA for years. He retired at the end of last month. And we are happy to report that he is doing well as he recovers from his operation.

Ray had suffered from kidney problems for many years. He had begun treatment with a dialysis machine. But dialysis is not a cure.

One reason kidney transplants are performed so often is that a kidney can come from a living donor. People have two kidneys to remove waste from the body. But they need only one.

Ray needed a healthy kidney. The person who gives an organ or tissue is known as the donor. The person who receives it is the recipient. Ray found a donor. His wife, Renie, offered to give him one of her kidneys.

A transplant succeeds only if doctors can prevent the body from rejecting the new organ or tissue. They attempt this with drugs that suppress the body's defense system. Before any of this, however, the doctors must make sure the tissue is similar to that of the transplant patient.

Both the donor and recipient must have the same blood type. They also must have some of the same proteins called H.L.A. antigens. These are found on the outside of cells. Each person has many different H.L.A. antigens. The donor and recipient must have several of the same antigens for the transplant to have a chance to succeed.

Doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, tested both Renie and Ray Freeman. They found enough of a match to do the operation.

Renie was in the hospital for three days. Ray was home after about a week. Three months later, he takes anti-rejection medicine each day. He has blood tests each week to make sure everything is all right. Renie is fine. And Ray says he feels better than he has in years.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. To learn more about organ transplants, listen next Tuesday at this hour for Science in the News.

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