James Mangus - 5

Mangus JimBlankenship Thomas2James Mangus and Thomas Blankenship James Mangus donated on behalf of Thomas Blankenship. He is the brother-in-law of Kelli Blankenship, Thomas' wife.

"Thomas, gosh, that man is like the Energizer Bunny. He has had so much going on with his health through the years, but he just keeps going. We’d been with him throughout both lung transplants and watched his health go in and out from there. There was just a boatload of medication he had to take, and it wasn’t really a surprise when we found out his kidneys were failing.
"I was in Afghanistan as part of the Texas Army National Guard when we found out he had to go on dialysis. That was around the fall 2011 when this thing really started to go around the family. Everyone was reaching out to see who could be tested and who might be a match.
"I got home from Afghanistan right at the first part of 2012. Shortly thereafter, I talked to someone at UAB and had a kit sent out and got my blood tested. They told me then that I wasn’t a match. It was kind of a let down. Then it looked like he had an actual direct match with someone else, but that never materialized.
"So Thomas kept on going and kept doing dialysis. We live in the Dallas area, so we don’t get to see Thomas that much — maybe two to three times a year. Getting to see Thomas when we did and how he struggled with dialysis was just a beating. And I’m sure it’s no better for anybody else.
"The paired program took hold at UAB last year and Kelli, Thomas’ wife, said, ‘If you’re still up for it, would you be interested in doing the paired program? So I called the number and got another blood kit and went through the testing in February or March of 2013, and by the time it all came back around, it was late fall. It was around then that they told Thomas we were getting close. They were waiting for some pieces to fall in the chain. And then, one day, it just happened. I got about two weeks' notice.
"As for why I did it, why I gave? I don’t know. I guess growing up and spending a good part of my adult life in the military, you kind of get the mindset that you’re really there to serve. You would do whatever it took to help somebody out.
"Thomas is just a one in a million guy. He’s just a good dude, a great family man — just a solid guy. You look at a guy like that, and you know, a lot of us question higher powers and whatever the case is, but you look at a guy like Thomas and you just wonder how a guy who is such a good solid dude as this could come down with all of this stuff. You just want to do whatever you can to help. I just had the capability to step up and do something that would positively impact at least one person’s life. It was just a no-brainer.
"Martha Kelley, who received my kidney, she’s such a sweet lady. Her overall level of health prior to the transplant was really bad. I felt bad that I couldn’t spend much time with her after the transplant. But she and her family were just great people. It was wonderful to get an opportunity to meet them.
"Transplantation as a whole has just gone crazy over the past several decades. I remember someone in my late teens and early 20s that had a kidney transplant. The stuff they had to go through back then was just horrific — huge gaps and scars down the whole side of their body. It wasn’t an easy, recoverable thing. These days, oh my gosh. Just the transplant process itself has gotten so much better. The survivability is so much better than it used to be.
"Coming up with a program like this paired program is just ingenious. Now you’ve spread the opportunity out so much that people that may not have been capable of receiving an organ in years past, now, it doesn’t have to be a direct match. You can enter the program and hopefully they can connect all of the dots and when it all flushes out a bunch of people like this get to be involved and hopefully get life going again."

Celebrating the nation's longest kidney chain

High-tech medicine and human kindness combine in UAB's ongoing kidney chain, a series of transplant surgeries that have given 101 people so far a new lease on life. The chain is the nation's longest ever.

The kidney chain has been kept going by many remarkable acts of sacrifice, and has revealed many moving stories of determination. Tyler Williamson went to TEDx Birmingham’s 2017 event in March expecting to be inspired and to network and make new connections with fellow attendees. What the 27-year-old did not anticipate was that inspiration would lead him to volunteer to become a living kidney donor just seven months later. See his story in this video:

In their words, stories from our transplant donors and recipients.

Kendra BrooksKendra Brooks. After more than four years of dialysis treatments, Kendra Brooks received her transplant in April 2016. Kendra’s mom donated a kidney so her daughter could receive one and wrote a letter to share the news. “It said, ‘God has answered our prayers. We have a match.’ I cried puddles of tears of joy,” Kendra says. Learn more about Kendra.

sheldon vaughn webSheldon Vaughn. High blood pressure and diabetes ravaged Sheldon Vaughn’s kidneys, and it was the kindness of two donors who helped him achieve a transplant. “A dialysis nurse my wife and I came to know wanted to donate to me, but wasn’t a match for me, and her kidney went to a woman in Florida. But because of her donation, I was able go on the UAB list and received my kidney from a young woman named Nicole who had contacted UAB and wanted to donate her kidney to anybody. So in a sense, I feel like I have two donors.” Learn more about Sheldon.

laura burks w Laura Burks. With a desire to help others, Laura Burks was looking for her next opportunity when a friend posted on her blog about how she was going to donate a kidney. “I thought, ‘That is what I need to do,’ Laura says. “Before that, I didn’t know you could be a loving donor. I thought it was something that happens after you pass away. After realizing that I could give away an organ that I don’t have to have to live with, I thought, ‘If I don’t do this, my life’s not complete.’ I just knew somebody needed a kidney and they’re depending on some stranger to give up theirs, and I was that stranger. Learn more about Laura.

William Harris w William Harris. High blood pressure caused William Harris’ kidneys to fail, and he was told he would eventually need a kidney transplant to live. After nine years of dialysis treatments, his wish came true. “When I was told I was a candidate to get a transplant, and that there was a match for me, I didn’t have any fears,” William says. “I was humbled to know that someone wanted to give me a kidney.” Learn more about William.

Become a part of the chain

Donate a kidney 
If you would like to donate to someone in need of a transplant, begin by filling out this form. You can learn more about kidney transplantation at UAB here.  

Get on the list
If you are in need of a kidney transplant, you will need a referral from your nephrologist. Your doctor can get all the details here.

Give a gift
Support the UAB Comprehensive Transplant Institute with a donation online .

2018 By the Numbers Kidney Chain 600px

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UAB Kidney Chain news

kidney chain 100 graphic kc siteNation’s longest single-site kidney chain reaches 100

To date, 101 living donors have changed the lives of 101 recipients as part of the nation’s longest ongoing single-center paired kidney transplant chain.

kc baseball thumbUAB baseball team helps Mississippi family cope with loss of father, husband

Young boy loses his dad, but finds many father figures on UAB's baseball team.

div kcFrom transplant lab worker to donor, employee becomes part of UAB’s world-record kidney chain

Divyank Saini is a UAB lab technologist and one of 17 employees who work behind the scenes at UAB Hospital to bring hope to those waiting on heart, lung, kidney, liver and other transplants. Saini made a decision that he wanted to do more than just his important work of interpreting lab samples to find the right matches. He decided to become a living donor and is UAB Kidney Chain donor No. 57. 

chalice kc2Science, generosity save lives in UAB Kidney Chain

Meet a family bound not by blood or name, but by their kidneys in the world’s longest living-donor kidney transplant chain. Discover how science and human kindness come together to save lives.

kc surgeryIncompatible, yet needed: What are incompatible kidney transplants? And why are they done?

The human body is primed to identify and destroy invaders like viruses, bacteria and other pathogens that can bring illness or death. Cells of the immune system and the antibodies they make recognize such foreign bodies and act to remove and destroy them. This defense system is a potential problem for kidney transplants. People have different blood groups and different human leukocyte antigens that can provoke an attack if a tissue, such as a kidney, or blood is transferred from one person to another. These two barriers are called blood group incompatibility and tissue (or histo-) incompatibility. A kidney transplant team uses the histocompatibility and blood bank testing laboratories to determine whether the tissues and blood group of a volunteer living kidney donor and the intended recipient match. A match is good, but matches are not always possible.

Jerry Phillips kcCommunity of the South: Donors help stretch UAB Kidney Chain to record 51 transplants

Fifty-first transplant means 102 total surgeries have been performed since December 2013 as the nation’s longest-ever chain continues to grow.

thompson kcNation’s longest kidney transplant chain reaches 34

The UAB kidney chain, which began December 2013 and expects more transplants in January 2015, ‘showcases the power of the human spirit in every aspect.’

nightline kcNation’s largest single-site kidney transplant chain underway at UAB

Since December, 21 living donor kidney transplants that have taken place at UAB are connected as donors “pay it forward” for a recipient to keep the chain going, and more transplants are scheduled for July.

locke press conferenceSnow can’t stop the Southeast’s largest kidney transplant chain at UAB

The unexpected 2014 snowstorm that crippled the Southeast did not deter the transplant team at UAB from continuing the largest nondirected donor chain ever performed at a single center in the Southeast. 

1080px UPDATE Kidney map 2018

The kidney chain has brought donors and recipients to UAB from across the eastern United States and as far away as Oregon.

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Learn more

dr locke video

UAB transplant surgeon Jayme Locke, M.D., and transplant nephrologist Vineeta Kumar, M.D., discuss living kidney donation and paired-kidney exchange in a series of videos on UAB's MD Learning Channel.