NewsLocal NewsMichigan


Kidney transplant patients face challenges in Michigan

DMC's adult transplant program closed, COVID-19 complicates donation process
Posted at 10:44 AM, Dec 20, 2021

DETROIT (WXYZ) — With Detroit Medical Center’s adult kidney transplant program closed, there are now only five hospitals across Michigan that are certified to carry out the complex procedure.

Plus, with the state’s COVID-19 infection rate at an all-time high, transplant patients in Michigan have more to worry about.

"Something like this will really mess your mind up, emotionally, mentally and physically," Bernice Vance, a kidney transplant patient, said.

Vance was diagnosed with rare kidney disease back in 1998 and eventually was put on dialysis, which she says no one should ever go through.

"Sit there and see your blood every ounce of your blood coming in and out of you. It's like your bones are drying up and cracking," Vance said.

But in 2010, Vance got a second chance at life after she underwent a kidney transplant at the Detroit Medical Center.

"The important part about them that I loved was the caring that I loved, I can’t stress that enough," Vance said.

However, with DMC’s transplant program now closed, Vance’s important post-operative care nearly came to a halt.

Dr. Darla Granger, the director of the St. John Transplant Specialty Center, says the news is disappointing.

"The whole process of having kidney disease and all that can be overwhelming for people. Once you start working with a certain team, you have a connection with them, and it's harder to move on," Granger said.

In a statement to 7 Action News, DMC spokesperson Jason Barczy denied commenting on why the program shut down but said “We are working closely with patients currently on our waitlist or receiving post-transplant care in the program to support them through their transition into another program in the area.”

Mercy Health Saint Mary's Kidney Transplant Center, Henry Ford Hospital, Ascension St. John, University of Michigan Medical Center and William Beaumont Hospital are taking on the caseloads from DMC.

"The transplant part of it they will be able to keep their waiting time and then for our center, we are working very closely with the Detroit Medical Center to get their records and so people don’t have to repeat their testing," Granger said.

And to make matters worse, the pandemic is also complicating the situation.

"Post-transplant patients are very much at risk of having bad side effects from COIVD," Granger said.

Granger says a person infected with COVID-19 can’t receive a transplant as the risk of the organ being rejected is high. And infected individuals can’t donate due to a higher chance of risky surgery.

"We are asking our patients in order to protect themselves that they get vaccinated because if they are vaccinated before they have immunosuppressants, the medications that weaken their immune system, after the transplant, they do much better," Granger said.

In general, Granger says a kidney transplant is considered an elective surgery. But when an organ becomes available it is very time-sensitive to perform the transplant, rendering it essential.