By S.C. Atulugama –
What if you could donate a kidney for your loved one and save their life even when your blood types don’t match? Let’s take a look at how this new startup tries to make this a reality.
What is KENS?
“Kidney Donor Needed”. We have seen similar posts being shared over and over again on various social media platforms. Many a times we have seen children, parents and spouses desperately looking for a donor to save the life of their mother, father, brother, sister, husband or wife because their blood types don’t match to donate the organ themselves. Now we have a solution for that!
KENS- Kidney Exchange Network of Sri Lanka is a Social Enterprise designed to facilitate paired-exchange of Kidneys for patients in End-stage Kidney Failure. KENS comes as a mobile app which will pair two live donors to two patients in a process called “paired- exchange” enabling two simultaneous kidney transplants in one go!
In paired exchange, an incompatible donor/ recipient pair (such as a mother and son that don’t have compatible blood types) are matched with another incompatible donor/recipient pair for a “swap”. Each donor gives a kidney to the other person’s intended recipient.
A Kidney Paired Exchange Program assists donor/patient pairs who are incompatible or poorly matched with each other to find another donor/patient pair with whom they can exchange kidneys to enable more favorable compatibility and allow a transplant to take place.
The role of KENS here is to facilitate incompatible donor-patient pairs to meet other incompatible donor-patient pairs who are mutually compatible among the two pairs. KENS will run a matching algorithm for donor-patient pairs who have registered on the system, based on their blood types.
Over 1100 patients with Chronic Renal Disease (CRD) are admitted to hospitals per month in Sri Lanka, and each year, more than 5000 new kidney patients are identified with end stage renal disease (ESRD). Patients in End Stage Kidney Failure have two options; either get regular hemodialysis done, or undergo a kidney transplant. Health authorities estimated that Sri Lanka needed at least 1,000 dialysis machines, but there are only 178 machines in public hospitals. At present, there’s no national organ transplant list or any other such source that would facilitate organ transplantation. Hence, 8 out of every 10 patients in End Stage Renal Disease die due to lack of kidneys for transplantation.
Expected Social Effect
Until a kidney transplant is done, a patient in end stage renal failure has to undergo regular hemodialysis; and a critically ill patient has to undergo dialysis at least twice a week. One session of hemodialysis can cost anywhere between 60-80 USD in Sri Lanka. It also requires patients to set aside three to five hours for treatment plus travel to and from the center two times a week. All in all, one year of hemodialysis can cost up to one million Sri Lankan rupees, which is a huge cost for a patient in a developing country. Considering the number of patients with ESRD, facilitating renal transplants will save billions of rupees for both the government and the patients.
KENS is a social enterprise with a non-profit business model and hence it will be available to patients with ESRD for free.
This is the first app of its kind in Sri Lanka and in the Asia-Pacific where organ donation programs are not as efficient as in the West and hence organs for transplantation are always in high demand. Short-term goal of KENS is to save 1000 lives by the end of 2018.
In the future, KENS will act as an accessory program to the National Transplant List/Deceased Donor Program once it is established.