Photo by Carl Peters
Carlos Ferrer of Clayton holds hands with his wife, Tamira, at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, Camden, on Friday, Oct. 2. Carlos was not a compatible match to donate a kidney to his wife, but through a “paired exchange” program, he donated one of his kidneys to a woman in New York, whose husband donated a kidney to Tamira.
CAMDEN — At some point on Wednesday, Sept. 30, an ambulance racing north on the New Jersey turnpike passed another ambulance racing south. Each ambulance was carrying a kidney for a patient awaiting a transplant, one at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center here, and the other in the New York City area.
The northbound ambulance was carrying a kidney from Carlos Ferrer of Clayton — whose wife, Tamira, was awaiting a kidney from an anonymous donor in New York.
Carlos had originally wanted to donate to his wife, whose chronic kidney disease had forced her to undergo dialysis for the past year, but he was an incompatible donor.
So, Carlos donated to his wife “indirectly”: he sent his kidney to the woman in New York, and her husband — who was an incompatible donor for his own wife but a match for Tamira — sent his kidney south.
The procedure was the first successful “paired exchange” or “double swap” kidney transplant in the Philadelphia and southern New Jersey region, according to hospital CEO Mark Bateman.
Two days after the surgery, Carlos and Tamira met with reporters and photographers. As they talked they held hands and a photo of their four children. They have been married 16 years.
“Jesus gave his life, and I would give my life for my family,” said Carlos, who has a job in corrections.
“I feel like I have a second chance to go back to what I love to do, which is teach,” said Tamira, whose health problems forced her to stop working years ago. “I have a job waiting for me.”
In paired exchange, the identities of both pairs are kept confidential, even from each other, but the Ferrers agreed to tell their story to draw attention to the benefits of the procedure.
Ari Chakravarty, who oversaw the surgery at Lourdes, said that if Tamira had not registered with a donor exchange program, she could have expected to wait years to receive a donated kidney. Furthermore, he said, a kidney from a live donor is far preferable to one from a cadaver.
Carlos, who met the press on his 37th birthday, underwent laproscopic surgery which required a four-inch incision. He was scheduled to leave the hospital later that day, and he could leave knowing that his wife — now healthier and feeling better than she had in a long time — was expected to come home to him and their children just two days later.
And he knew that somewhere in the New York area, another husband and wife were just as grateful.