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Your Kidney Could Save a Life: Learn About Living Donation

By HERWriter
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Your Kidney Could Save a Life: Learn More About Living Donation Divakaran Dileep/PhotoSpin

If you have two healthy kidneys, you may have the ability to save a life. Most people have two kidneys, but they really only need one to maintain good health.

That makes it possible for someone with a healthy pair to donate one to someone whose kidneys no longer function correctly. This is called a living donation because the donor is alive and well at the time of the donation.

Many people who choose to donate a kidney do so to help a friend or loved one whose kidneys are failing. In general, a genetic match between the donor and recipient may reduce the chance the recipient’s body will reject the organ.

But you don’t have to be related or even know the person who needs a kidney to become a donor.

Here are some things to consider if you are thinking about being a kidney donor:

Physical evaluation

Donating a kidney is a permanent step that will physically change your body. You’ll need to have medical tests to make sure it is safe for you to be a donor and that the organ you want to donate is healthy for the recipient.

In order to be a donor, you must be over 18 but under age 65, in good health and clear of any major medical problems. You should be an appropriate weight for your height and should not have a history of diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease.

You cannot have diseases that you could share with the recipient such as hepatitis, HIV or cancer.

Tests may include:

• Blood tests to learn your blood type and other physical characteristics to help match your kidney to the recipient

• X-Rays to check the condition of your heart and lungs

• Urine samples to make sure your kidney is functioning correctly

• Complete gynecological exams and mammograms for women to ascertain good health

Psychological evaluation

Donating an organ can have a significant mental and emotion impact in addition to the impact on your health.

If you know the person you are donating to, you’ll need to consider how your donation may affect your relationship. Also think about how you will feel if the donation is not successful or your kidney is rejected after surgery.

In order to be a donor, you must be free of mental problems that could interfere with your ability to make the decision to donate an organ. You may benefit from talking to a number of people such as family, a counselor or a religious advisor as you evaluate your own emotions and reasons for being a donor.

You must also be able to understand the risks to your own health and the process you will go through as a donor. Potential long-term risks of kidney donation include:

• High blood pressure

• Protein in the urine which can indicate that your remaining kidney is not healthy

• Kidney failure

Financial evaluation

Organ donors are not paid for donating an organ. Medical expenses for organ donation may or may not be covered by the recipient’s insurance. Costs that may be covered include testing before surgery, hospital bills and other medical expenses directly connected with the donation.

You will likely be responsible for many other expenses including food, travel costs, a place to stay before or after surgery if you are not at home, loss of income and child care while you recover from the donation surgery.

If you have disability insurance, some of these costs may be covered. Check with your insurance provider for the details of your plan.

If you decide to donate to someone you know, contact your recipient’s transplant center or hospital and ask to speak to the kidney transplant coordinator. Or you can search the Transplant Center Directory to find a hospital that performs transplants in your area.


National Kidney Foundation. Q&A on Living Donation. Web. March 5, 2015.

About.com: Health. How to Donate an Organ to a Friend or Family Member. Jennifer Whitlock, RN, MSN, FNP-C. Web. March 5, 2015.

Transplant Living. Making the Decision. Web. March 5, 2015.

Reviewed March 6, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment3 Comments

(Finger slip caused premature submitting)

The Secretary of Health mandated one year of follow-up on all living donors in 2000, but transplant centers chose to be noncompliant. In 2009, a taskforce called the database "woefully incomplete" and "useless" for research or analysis. In 2013 under pressure from HRSA (dept of health), OPTN agreed to a revised follow-up policy, but it still only applies to one year post-donation. No hospital has been penalized for noncompliance. Meanwhile, transplant recipients are tracked in a govt sponsored registry for 10 years.

Two recent studies indicate that living kidney donors have an 8-11x increased risk of kidney failure as compared to their healthy counterpart. Only a year post-donation, some LKDs are showing heart and blood changes associated with heart disease. LKDs lose 20-65% of their pre-donation kidney function. A 10% reduction is known to significantly increase the risk of heart disease and death.

As the sister of a transplant recipient, I understand the burden of kidney failure. But as a living kidney donor, I find this constant minimization of the reality and risks of living kidney donation to be dangerous and unethical. The public should never be regarded as medical supply. We deserve the same respect given to recipients. Living donors are people too.

PS. you can find references to all statements made above at www.livingdonor101.com and www.livingdonorsarepeopletoo.com

April 23, 2015 - 8:05am

The mission of the ALODF is to increase living donation, not ensure living donor safety. Sigrid Fry Revere, the group's founder and primary member, has written numerous articles (and one book) defending Iran's kidney market, and just co-authored a paper (published march 2015) that endorses the "testing" of incentives in the U.S. (Despite the fact that every analysis from every country - including Iran - concludes that markets are highly detrimental the person selling their kidney).

Kidney transplants are not cures, but treatments. Because there are other treatments for kidney failure, namely dialysis, a transplant DOES NOT "save a life".

Meanwhile, this article glosses over the risks of donation to the donor, as well as the systemic deficits living donors endure.

4.4 living kidney donors die every year in the US within 12 months of surgery (per OPTN and SRTR data).

20% experience complications: hernia, pancreatitis, intestinal blockage, adrenal dysfunction, nerve damage, testicular swelling/sensitivity, etc.

30% suffer from depression, anxiety, grief, anger and/or PTSD. Transplant centers are not required to, nor do they, offer structured aftercare or support services.

The US had no national standards of care until 2013. The current standards are so vague that if a potential LKD is rejected, the transplant center *must* tell the potential LKD that s/he can be evaluated and accepted at another hospital with "different selection criteria".

60 years after the first living kidney donor transplant and we still have NO COMPREHENSIVE LIVING DONOR DATA.

April 23, 2015 - 7:55am
EmpowHER Guest

The American Living Organ Donor Fund has a website full of information for potential living organ donors. They have an "assistance for donors" tab that brings up individual states and the laws, programs, and even private organizations that are relevant to organ donation.

They also have a donor support group that allows potential donors to join and an application for financial aid to help with non-medical donation related expenses. see www.HelpLivingOrganDonorsSaveLives.org or www.alodf.org

March 6, 2015 - 4:48pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.