Three-Way Paired Kidney Exchange


Jan 6, 2023

Three-Way Paired Kidney Exchange

Three-Way Paired Kidney Exchange

Rick Calcutt was an active and healthy guy despite a kidney condition,  when his kidneys suddenly worsened over several months the married father of three and former pro athlete found himself needing dialysis and a sleep apnea machine.  At that point, he thought he had about five years to live,  

“Dialysis wasn’t working……I was all hooked up.  It looked like I was on my deathbed” 

Rick’s only hope seemed to be a kidney transplant.  His wife Marissa was willing to donate a kidney and was healthy enough.  However, she was not a match.  They worried about the length of time Rick would need to be on a transplant waitlist, so the Chicago area couple decided to enroll in a paired kidney donation program. 

The program works by letting healthy people donate a kidney in exchange for someone else donating a kidney to their loved one.  In just one week's time the couple were matched with a pair in Buffalo, New York, and two other people who would complete the three-pair chain donation.  During the summer of 2022 six successful operations, involving three successful kidney transplants took place.  Then in November, Rick and Marrissa held an emotional video conference call with the pair in New York that had helped to save each other's lives.  

“It’s an honor to meet you…I am going to start crying," said Marissa Calcutt, speaking to Christine and Ruth Faust, who are former mother in law and daughter in law.  

As part of the exchange, Christine Faust donated her healthy kidney to Rick Calcutt, so that another donor, who wants to remain anonymous, would donate their kidney to her former mother in law Ruth Faust. 

“I’m glad I could share part of me with you, it’s such a small sacrifice to make such a big impact” - Christine Faust

Marissa also received a card from the person who was the recipient of her donated kidney. The recipient is a woman, living in another state, married with a child and had a condition four years ago that ruined her kidneys. 

“She wrote that my kidney was a rock star” - Marissa Calcutt

The concept of paired donations was first done in South Korea in 1991.  It was then tried successfully in the United States a decade later.  Paired donations help to speed up the matching process. One out of three healthy and willing donors are rejected due to incompatible blood type antibodies.  According to one study, the match rate is increased more than 50% in a three-way donation and even larger kidney donation chains are possible.  In 2012 one donation chain included 60 people.  The creation of the National Kidney Registry in 2007 has made paired donations more common.  This was the first paired donation performed at the Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, New York where the Fausts had their surgeries.  

In Illinois, where the Calcutt’s surgeries took place, Advocate Christ Medical Center has performed paired donations at least twice before, according to the Calcutts transplant surgeon Dr. Deepak Mital

“The need for Kidneys is dire” - Dr. Deepak Mital

In the U.S. more than 140,000 people are waiting for a kidney transplant.  Only about 24,00 transplants occur each year.  The wait time is about 4 or 5 years for a patient with a previously healthy lifestyle.  

“This kidney paired donor exchange is a phenomenal way to shorten the amount of time on dialysis for patients.  Donors like Marissa, God bless them.  They take part in this exchange and donate a kidney to a stranger and a kidney comes to their loved one” - Dr. Deepak Mital

Doctors were able to fly Christine Faust’s donated kidney by charter plane from New York to Chicago so they could perform the transplant as soon as possible, and just three days after surgery Rick Calcutt was discharged home.  

“I feel completely normal and I just can’t believe how fast it went.  Thankfully, you gave a kidney, and other people helped out too” - Rick Calcutt 

The Calcutts and the Fausts want to tell others considering kidney donation that the process is easy.  

“It really was a small inconvenience.  The surgery was quick, the recovery was quick….I don't feel any different than I did before surgery”.   Said Christine Faust.  The meeting in November between these two families, although done from different states over video, was described by them as “very emotional”.   Christine Faust had this to say about donating her kidney to Rick, 

“ I’m so happy for him and his family. I hope we can share some type of continuing connection”


This video from 2WGRZ records the meeting of the Calcutts and Fausts.

Related Articles

What is Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)?

What is Dialysis?

What Do Your Kidneys Do?

Anatomy of the Kidney

How Organ Donation and Transplantation Works


Chicago Sun Times


About the Author

Monica Thomas

Monica McCarthy has bachelors in Political Science and Criminal Justice from Central Washington University.  A majority of her career was spent as a political consultant.   She currently works at KidneyLuv as a staff writer.

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