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Some good news out of my hometown of Pittsburgh: Two months after shutting its doors after a patient received a kidney infected with hepatitis C, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Transplant Program has begun performing transplants once again. The incident was revealed in May, and ultimately resulted in UPMC closing the program down while serious concerns about its screening process and success rates were addressed. Earlier this month, UPMC received federal approval to resume its transplant operations.

Once considered an outstanding transplant center, UPMC has come under fire recently for seemingly sub-par performance. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, only 85.7% of UPMC transplants between 2004 and 2009 remain healthy after one year, compared to 95.7% nationwide. Hospital officials state that no kidney transplant has failed since July 1, 2009 and that measures are now in place to improve results.

Patients awaiting kidneys often find it difficult to locate a matching donor within their family. The Alliance for Paired Donation has responded to this issue by introducing a system in which a living donor can donate a matching kidney to a stranger, who has a non-matching donor willing to donate to another stranger, who has a non-matching donor willing to donate to yet another stranger, and so on until the first patient receives a matching organ. This altruistic chain of donations has offered hope to large groups of patients. Sadly, one of the pioneers of this program, Lansing-area attorney Mark R. Fox, recently passed away.

Organ transplant patients face a series of daunting obstacles in their path to recovery. Receiving adequate care and a safe, matching organ should not be something they have to worry about.

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