Why should I become a living kidney donor?

The gift of living donation is the ultimate gift. Giving of oneself with the intention to allow another to live a longer, more fulfilled life is quite a unique experience. Studies have shown that living kidney donors have a higher quality of life and greater sense of wellbeing when compared to their siblings who were unable to donate. There is a special bond that grows and evolves between a receipt and their donor. Their own personal hero. All donors are “real life” heroes. If you have a loved one who is in need of a kidney transplant and are interested in learning more about this unique process, the following information should help shed some light into how special your gift could be.

Is Kidney Transplantation a better option for the recipient than dialysis?

Absolutely. Studies have shown people live longer with a transplant than on dialysis. Also, quality of life is significantly better with a transplant, as dialysis can limit one’s work life, and family time.

What are the different types of kidney transplants?

There are two types of kidney transplants. Deceased donor kidneys and Living donor kidneys. Deceased donor kidneys come from people who have died in accidents, or due to heart attacks or strokes. Living donor kidneys come from healthy individuals – related or unrelated – who undergo rigorous testing to assure they are safe to donate.

Why is a living donor kidney better?

Living donor kidneys are the preferred option over deceased donors for 2 major reasons:

  • Most people wait 3-5 years on the wait list for a deceased donor kidney
    A living donor transplant, if a healthy, suitable donor is available, can be scheduled within months. Sometimes, if planned correctly, dialysis can be avoided completely with a living donor transplant. On average, 10.2 people on dialysis die every day.
  • Living donor kidneys last longer than deceased donor kidneys
    A deceased donor kidney transplant, on average lasts 10-15 years while a living donor transplant lasts 12-20 years.

Am I a candidate to donate? How do I begin the living donor evaluation?

The first thing to determine is if you are the same blood type as the recipient. If are not a match, you can still donate trough a process called paired exchange. Ask your transplant coordinator about this special program. Next is the tissue typing and cross match evaluation. You will undergo a through medical evaluation to make sure it is safe for you to donate. This entire process is strictly confidential and not shared with the recipient.

What are the major risks of being a donor? Can I die from the surgery?

The risk of death for a living kidney donor is extremely low on average there are 3 deaths for every 10,000 living donor surgeries performed. Surgical complications are very low as well, less than 3%. The typical complications are similar to those that happen with general surgery, such as a urinary tract infection, skin infection, bleeding, a blood clot in your legs that can go to the lungs. As we do our donor surgeries over time.

Will donating a kidney shorten my lifespan?

No. Actually, data has shown that living kidney donors live longer than the average person. Some scientists believe this is due to a selection bias; people who donate a kidney are some of the most healthy people, thus they should be expected to live longer than the average person.

Will I be able to live a normal life after donating a kidney?

Certainly. Decades of patient follow up confirms that donating a kidney does not affect your day to day life in any way. Donors can hike, bike, drive, travel to distant countries, pretty much everything they did before they donated. We recommend a yearly examination by your PCP.

What if my remaining kidney fails?

Although this complication is extremely rare, the United Network for Organ Sharing has a policy for this. Prior living donors who subsequently need a kidney transplant are placed near the top of the deceased donor list, thus receive a kidney within a few months.

How long does the surgery take? How long will I be in the hospital?

The surgery lasts about 2-3 hours. The typical length of stay is 3 days. Most donors are out of work for about 2-6 weeks.

What should I expect my recovery time to be? How will I feel after the surgery?

Most donors will have mild to moderate pain post operatively, that is usually relieved by oral pain medications. Most patients feel they no longer need pain medications after 2 weeks or even sooner. Most donors can eat the first or second day after the operation. We recommend you don’t lift anything over 20 lbs for 6 weeks and avoid driving for 2 weeks. If you have children, you will need assistance for the first week you return from the hospital.

When can I go back to work?

It mostly depends on what your daily work entails. If you have an “office” job, most donors can go back to work in 2-4 weeks. If you have a job that involves physical work, 6-8 weeks is a common return to work date.

Can I have children?

Research shows donating a kidney does not effect your ability to get pregnant or father a child. Some studies have shown that there is a higher risk of pre-eclampsia and low birth weight in women who become pregnant after donation.

Could I have trouble obtaining insurance after donating?

Kidney donors had very few problems obtaining medical or disability insurance, according to national studies of insurance providers. Only 4% had trouble getting disability insurance, life or health insurance. Less than 3% had difficulties. If you have trouble with insurance issues, contact the PSL transplant team who will be glad to help you.

What is my financial responsibility?

The recipient’s insurance company covers all of the medial donor evaluation process, donor surgery and transplant related follow up. Lost wages from time off, travel costs, child care and living expenses for the donor are not reimbursed. If you anticipate you might have trouble covering your expenses while you are out of work, there are foundations that you can apply to for financial help. We can help you through this process.

What if I change my mind about donating?

As potential donors go through the evaluation process, sometimes it becomes clear that living donation is not the right choice for a particular individual. Donor candidates can opt out of the process AT ANY TIME.

How will my life be different after donating a kidney?

Living donors can and do essentially the same activities as they could prior to donation. Living an active lifestyle, such as running, biking, and all are usual daily activities for a living donor. Activities to avoid would include full contact football or karate, hockey, skiing between trees or anything that might lead to severe blunt trauma to the remaining kidney. Ultramarathons, Ironman events or any activity that may lead to extreme dehydration should be avoided as well. NSAID medications should be avoided as well.