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'Hard to imagine': Former UH kidney transplant patients react to recipient mix-up

Former UH kidney transplant patients tells us it is hard to imagine how transplant mistake happened
Posted at 10:18 PM, Jul 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-12 23:13:49-04

CLEVELAND — Two University Hospitals caregivers are on administrative leave after a transplant patient received a kidney that was intended for a different patient, hospital officials confirmed Monday.

After breaking the news about the transplant mix-up, 5 On Your Side Investigators found a recent UH kidney transplant patient who gave his reaction to the medical mistake.

“I had no idea that I was even sick,” said Ben Hale, 42, from Newbury.

He was thinking back to February of last year when he found out he needed a transplant.

“We were scared. We were really scared,” said his wife Courtney, 36. “You don’t now how many options there will be,” she told us.

She hoped she would be a match for her husband because she’s aware of the issues that can arise.

“You stay hopeful, but some nights you don’t sleep so well,” said Ben.

Thankfully, Courtney was a match, but the steps to qualify were tough.

“You have to go through a very, very serious and intensive process that takes months to be approved,” she said.

Not only that, Courtney was worried about surgery day. She wondered if the UH medical staff would follow all the right procedures.

“I like the idea that everyone checks in with each other. So, the whole idea is not one person is more important than the other,” she told us after being reassured by Ben’s doctor that everything would be fine.

Which makes the University Hospitals’ announcement today about the kidney problems hard to imagine.

“It would be very upsetting to know it wasn’t a natural thing like rejection that it is just one of those things that happen. It was human error,” said Ben.

A quick Google search shows there have been problems around the country with transplants in the past, including with a kidney at the University of Southern California 10 years ago that put transplants on hold there.

The United Network for Organ Sharing that manages the national organ transplant system wrote a statement in response to News 5's questions about the UH kidney issues.

It wrote in part, “…policies include verification processes meant to prevent errors such as the one reported (at UH) and they are exceedingly rare.”

The Hales said rare or not, they wish nothing but the best for both UH patients involved.

“I hope that [they are] getting all the support that they need, because it is not an easy thing to go through,” said Courtney.

“I had a good experience, but this is an important day,” said Ben. “And that sort of thing shouldn’t happen.”

RELATED: UH transplant patient receives kidney intended for another, hospital official confirms

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