North Texas

Kidney Voucher Program Aims to Up the Number of Live Donors

One in three American adults is at risk for kidney disease

What to Know

  • As of 2016, there were more 121,500 people waiting for an organ transplant in the United States. More than 100,500 were waiting for kidneys.
  • More than 3,000 new patients get added to the waiting list for kidney transplant each month.
  • The average wait time for a patient’s first kidney transplant is 3.6 years and can vary depending on health and compatibility to donors.

Every month about 3,000 new people are placed on the kidney transplant list. However, 13 people die each day waiting for their transplant. Now, a new national program is helping people get their transplant faster with the help of a complete stranger.

Three-year-olds Adele and Aubrey may be twins, but they couldn't be more different from each other.

A big difference between the two. Aubrey has two kidneys, while Adele, also known as Delly, has one. When Delly was born she was diagnosed with multicystic kidney disease.

"She immediately went into renal failure," Delly's grandmother Jamie McNeil said.

Delly is doing well now with her kidney function at 78 percent, but she's not completely out of the woods.

"At this point it's looking like she will need a kidney transplant within the next ten years or so," explained Delly's mother Meghann Adams.

But when she does need her transplant, she will be transferred to the living kidney donor list — all thanks to her grandmother donating her kidney to a complete stranger.

Through the National Kidney Registry's donor voucher program, a donor can donate a kidney now and get a voucher for an intended recipient for a later living donor transplant.

"Those timeframes are significantly shorter than you would have to wait for a deceased donor kidney. Deceased donor kidneys, you can wait anywhere from a couple of years all the way up to eight to ten years," said Dr. Nicole Turgeon from Emory University School of Medicine.

Just one living donor taking part in this voucher program can help over a hundred people on the transplant list. 

"If I can inspire just three people to donate a kidney and those three people can inspire three more people and those three people can inspire three more people; if we did that just eleven times over, we could wipe out the whole kidney list," said McNeil.

McNeil's kidney donation started off a chain that impacted eight people with four kidney transplants. But now she also has that safety net for her granddaughter, for whenever she will need her kidney.

McNeil was the first to take part in the kidney voucher program at Emory University. The longest chain to take place there involved 62 transplants.

For more information about the kidney voucher program visit

Kidney Donor Voucher Program

Acceptable organ donors can range in age from newborns to 65 years or more. The Kidney Voucher Program allows you to write a list of five people who you would like to donate one of your kidneys to. The vouchers would be for one of the people on that list and once it is used it will negate the use for the other four people. However, if someone on your list needs the kidney but is not compatible, they will receive a compatible kidney, and yours will go towards the list of the person who donated their kidney to your loved one. The advantage of this program is that you can give your kidney and know that someone on your list will potentially receive a living donor kidney in the future. This also allows you to donate your kidney when it is convenient for you and your health and will put you in a priority list should you ever encounter kidney failure with your other kidney. (Source: Dr. Nicole Turgeon)

Contributors to this news report include: Milvionne Chery, Field Producer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.

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