Arizona couple thankful for living donation chain
There are more than 2,200 people waiting for an organ in Arizona and 1,588 of them need a kidney.

PHOENIX (Nov. 22, 2017) – Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix completed its first UNOS Kidney Paired Donation, a transplant option for candidates who have found an incompatible living donor.

According to National Kidney Foundation of Arizona, there are more than 2,200 people waiting for an organ in Arizona and 1,588 of them need a kidney. To find the right match, the wait can last years. But San Tan Valley resident Matt Kuntzi didn’t have long to wait because of a living kidney donation chain that spanned three states.

“I wasn’t a match for Matt,” said McKenna Kuntzi, Matt’s wife who wanted to donate her kidney to save his life. “So we joined the UNOS Kidney Paired Donation list, and within a few short months, we were both being matched with different donors and recipients.”

Matt was in kidney failure and required dialysis three times a week lasting three hours each time. “Dialysis is a way to keep you alive, but it is no way to live,” McKenna said.

“The entire process moved so quickly,” Matt said. “Without McKenna donating to someone in need, I know I would still be waiting.”

Participating in the paired kidney exchange program allows for a recipient to receive a better matched kidney, and helps others who would otherwise continue waiting for a matched donor. Nearly 45 percent of donor/recipient pairs could find a perfectly matched donor by entering the national paired kidney donation program. For Matt, his matched kidney came from Pennsylvania and McKenna’s helped someone in New Jersey.

More than 150 kidney transplants are done each year at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix with great success.

“98 percent of kidneys from living donors are functioning a year after surgery and most recipients do not have rejection,” said Dr. Alfredo Fabrega, Transplant Program director at the nonprofit facility. “As surgery becomes less invasive by using laparoscopic techniques, we’re seeing an increase in people willing to become a living donor.”

Those who become a living donor are generally in good health and under the age of 65. No lifestyle changes or medications are needed after the surgery for donors. Those interested in learning more about becoming an organ and tissue donor should visit

Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix is a large teaching hospital that has provided medical care to Arizona and the Southwest since 1911. It is part of Banner – University Medicine, a premier academic medical network. The hospital, recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of the nation’s best hospitals, specializes in heart care, cancer care, high-risk obstetrics, neurosciences and stroke care, organ transplants and Emergency care, including a Level 1 trauma center. Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix is part of Banner Health, a nonprofit health care system with 28 hospitals in six states. The institution, which has trained thousands of doctors over decades as a teaching hospital, is the academic medical center for the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. For more information, visit

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