Payin' it forward: UAB continued Southeast's largest kidney transplant chain in midst of winter storm

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- An unexpected winter storm paralyzed nearly all of Birmingham and much of central Alabama last week, but it didn't stop doctors at UAB Hospital from continuing the Southeast's largest kidney transplant chain.

The chain, which has been coined by the hospital as the "Pair Share Program," continued the week of Jan. 27 as doctors performed 16 operations, including eight donor nephrectomies and eight kidney transplants, according to a release. A total of 13 patients received transplants.

"Many of the recipients and donors braved icy, hazardous roads and below-freezing conditions to reach UAB," the release said. "Surgeons, nephrologists, nurses and support staff spent three days and nights in the hospital to ensure the success of the chain and give the gift of life."

As the state continued to thaw out from the winter gridlock on Friday, 15-year-old Ryane Burnes, of Mississippi, became the 13th patient to receive a kidney transplant, one that was a collaborative effort between doctors at both UAB and Children's of Alabama. The procedure signified Children's of Alabama as the only program in the Southeast to offer "kidney paired donation" to patients under the age of 18.

"This kidney chain is a groundbreaking achievement for our institution and a life-changing event for many families throughout the southeastern United States, especially these 13 families involved," said Devin Eckhoff, M.D., director of UAB's Division of Transplantation. "Our collaboration with Children's of Alabama in this endeavor ensures that the people of Alabama and beyond have a team of physicians, nurses, researchers and staff who are dedicated to working together to provide the most advanced care in the world, right here in our own backyard, to those in need."

Watch ABC 33/40 News at 10 on air or live online here for more on this incredible story.

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