Every few minutes, someone in the U.S. dies waiting for a kidney transplant. A breakthrough procedure allows donors that aren't matches to have a successful transplant.
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Casey Taylor: From the carefree days of childhood through the triumphs and tragedies of life, there's been one constant, sisters Barbara and Mary Beth have done it all together. Mary Beth Mullen: She's my son's godmother, she lives down the street, we do a lot together. Casey Taylor: When Barbara was struggling with polycystic kidney disease and needed a transplant, Mary Beth was the first to volunteer. At first, doctors told the sisters, this was a journey they'd have to take alone. They were to match. Barbara put herself on the waiting list and started dialysis. Mary Beth Mullen: She was so sick, that it wasn't an alternative to wait for some unknown donor. Casey Taylor: Georgetown University doctor Keith Melancon had an answer, an incompatible kidney transplant. It helps people with blood types like the sisters and also those who have antibodies that reject donated organs. This makes up one-third of the people on the waiting list. Dr. Keith Melancon: What we can do now is actually get rid of these antibodies and then perform transplantation. Casey Taylor: Before the transplant patients undergo a process that filters out the bad antibodies, then medication stops the body from producing new ones. Dr. Keith Melancon: We are able to do transplant even if the match isn't that good. Casey Taylor: It has about the same success as a traditional transplant. There is a higher risk of infection. Patients are in the hospital for 10 to 14 days compared to 5 to 7 for a traditional transplant. For Barbara and Mary Beth, it worked. Barbara Cullen: I always say that she's the real hero of the story. I needed a kidney, she gave it to me. I got better. It changed my life. Casey Taylor: Through it all they've kept their sense of humor. Mary Beth Mullen: I ask all the time how're you feeling, are you taking care of that kidney? Casey Taylor: And gained a new found respect for the bonds of sisterhood. I'm Casey Taylor reporting.
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