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From Botswana, Man Finds Kidneys in Iowa

A man from Botswana finds the kidney transplant he needs somewhere he never expected.


Anil Patel is a successful, well-connected American businessman working in Botswana. When he needed a kidney transplant, he came to see Qasim Chaudhry, M.D., a kidney transplant specialist with The Iowa Clinic.

Anil Patel, 69, didn't plan to leave his five Botswana businesses in the hands of others. But in 2011, his longtime battle with high blood pressure and diabetes — worsened by medical errors made during visits to his native India — caused his kidneys to shut down. Patel was seriously ill and had to put running his construction, hospitality, and manufacturing businesses on hold.

“My nephew is a nephrologist [kidney care specialist] who now practices in Australia. When he knew I had this problem, he advised me to return to the U.S.A. But to endure the 30 hours of air travel, I first needed dialysis to stabilize my condition,” says Patel.

Ultimately Patel did receive care in Chicago and later returned to Botswana with a plan to receive dialysis there. Dialysis removes waste products from the blood of patients with severe chronic kidney disease.

But the three-times-a-week routine was hard on Patel. “In Botswana, dialysis is available at only one place, and that is 400 kilometers away from where I used to live,” he says. Plus, after just three weeks it was clear that it wasn't working.

Patel returned to Chicago and began contacting local transplant hospitals, and was advised to search for a kidney donor. With no match found, he began to look at other U.S. hospitals with shorter waiting times.

Long Waiting Lists Bring Patel to Iowa

At Chicago-area hospitals, the waiting time for a kidney transplant can be five or more years — too long for a man in his late-60s to wait. Patel began contacting hospitals in Wisconsin, but found none that could offerhim a transplant in anything less than two years. A nephrologist in Chicago advised him to contact Unity Point-Des Moines and Qasim Chaudhry, M.D., a Kidney Transplant Specialist with The Iowa Clinic who performs surgeries at UnityPoint-Des Moines.

“I got a response very fast,” says Patel. “I met Dr. Chaudhry on June 26, 2013, and was evaluated for a transplant the same day. In October we learned that kidneys had become available. We arrived in Des Moines by 8 a.m. the next morning. The transplant was performed at noon that same day.”

Hope for Older Patients

Chaudhry explains how it was possible for Patel to get a transplant in Iowa so quickly: “With such long waiting times and limited survival on dialysis, an older patient may never get a kidney transplant. Many of these patients are taken off the list as their health deteriorates. Similarly, kidneys recovered from older donors are often discarded. At the Iowa Methodist Transplant Center, we are very good at selecting out kidneys that will work well.”

This aggressive approach to using older kidneys means that most patients on UnityPoint's kidney transplant wait list receive a new kidney within a year. In 2013, Chaudhry performed 53 transplants and 33 percent of these recipients were over the age of 60. Currently, there are fewer than 45 individuals on the list.

Before an older kidney is used, patients must agree to be on an “extended criteria list,” meaning they are willing to accept more marginal organs, and the kidney must pass a litany of safety tests. “We use a combination of biopsy, machine testing, and sound judgment to determine whether the kidney would be useful to the patient,” says Chaudhry.

Patel, who received two kidneys from a 69-year-old female, says, “When I asked Dr. Chaudhry why they didn't transplant the second kidney into another patient, I was informed that the two would provide me with enough kidney function to stay off dialysis for many years. A single kidney would not be enough.”

Healthy & Ready to Return to Botswana

This month, with Dr. Chaudhry's medical release, Patel will return to Botswana.

“The transplant has changed my life completely. I am totally fine today,” Patel says. “I will able to resume my day-to-day work of running my businesses.

“It's by the greatness of God that I have this new life, and I am grateful to Dr. Chaudhry and the entire UnityPoint−Des Moines staff,the donor's family, and the doctor in Chicago who suggested I come here,” he says.

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