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How To Donate A Kidney

Financial Aspects Of Living Donation

Donating a kidney

Many potential kidney donors have questions regarding the financial impact of becoming a donor. There will be both covered expenses and non-covered expenses associated with evaluation and donation that potential donors need to consider carefully.

Covered Expenses

The insurance of the intended recipient of your kidney covers the testing needed to see whether or not you can be a donor as well as the surgery and hospitalization needed for the kidney donation.

In general, some follow-up/post-operative care is covered, but not all. The extent of covered follow-up care will vary depending on your recipient’s insurance.

Non-Covered Expenses

In general, the following expenses are not covered by insurance, so should be considered “out-of-pocket” costs:

  • Travel and hotel stay
  • Elder care
  • Follow-up costs
  • Lost wages )

What Is Involved In Kidney Transplant Surgery

You will be given a general anesthetic before your surgery. Until recently, the removal of a kidney required an 20 cm to 23 cm incision on one side of the body . Now, laparoscopy may be used to remove the donor kidney. Advantages of laparoscopic kidney removal include less pain, shorter hospital stays, a more rapid return to normal activities, and a smaller, less noticeable scar.

Getting Started With A Living Kidney Donation

To be considered for a living kidney donation, please fill out the form below. Once the form is submitted, our team will carefully evaluate the information to determine whether or not the person is a candidate. We will contact potential donors with results within seven days after the completed form is received.

Our living kidney donor patient care team is committed to our donor patients health, as well as the health of the kidney recipient. Please contact us with questions or concerns about donation.

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Risks For The Living Kidney Donor

A donated kidney from a living person is likely to remain healthy for longer than one from a deceased donor. However, there is some risk to the donor. The surgery lasts for about three hours and will be followed by a hospital stay of four or five days. The surgery can have complications, but people can usually resume their everyday lives after six to eight weeks.Donating a kidney is not likely to cause any long-term health problems, unless the remaining kidney becomes injured or diseased.

I Want To Help A Stranger In Need Of A Kidney

Safe To Donate Kidney For A Loved One?

Over 100,000 people are in need of a kidney transplant. Roughly 6,000 people donate their kidney every year. Less than 5% of those 6,000 living kidney donors donate to someone that they do not know this type of donor is known as a Good Samaritan donor and there are multiple paths for Good Samaritans to go down if they wish to donate.

Family Voucher Donation: By donating through the Family Voucher Program, you can donate to a stranger now and create up to five vouchers for your healthy family members should someone you love need a kidney in the future.

Start a Chain: By donating as a non-directed donor through the National Kidney Registry, you can start a chain and help more than just one person get a kidney. All donors who donate through the NKR, either through chain donation or the Voucher Program, are eligible for the support and protections covered by Donor Shield.

Donate to the Deceased Donor Waitlist: The original form of Good Samaritan donation is to donate to a patient on the deceased donor waitlist. Most Good Samaritan donors choose to donate through the Voucher Program or start a chain so that they can help as many people as possible. An important thing to remember is that donating through either of those programs improves the deceased donor waitlist situation as it removes one or more people from that waitlist.

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Who Can Be A Living Donor

Family members are often the most likely to be compatible living kidney donors, but many people undergo successful transplants with kidneys donated from people who are not related to them. Living donors will have a full medical exam, must be at least 18 years old, and in good physical and mental health. Different transplant centers have different limits on who can donate. The Kidney Transplant Learning Center offers resources on how to prepare to make the living donor ask and/or to have a family member or friend serve as a living donor champion.

What Limitations Will I Have After I Have Donated A Kidney

Donating a kidney will not cause any limitations in your normal daily activities. After the recovery from your surgery, you will be able to resume all of your normal activities, including exercising and participating in sports.

Donating a kidney doesn’t affect a person’s fertility. For example, it won’t affect a woman’s ability to become pregnant or a man’s ability to impregnate a woman. But if a woman has donated a kidney, her risk for pre-eclampsia or high blood pressure during a pregnancy may be higher.

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The Recovery And Aftermath

Recovery from a kidney donation operation can take from two to 12 weeks depending on the persons individual progress.

Traditional open surgery

If the operation was an open nephrectomy, you may be in hospital for five to seven days, but you should be out of bed the day after the operation. Surgeons use either stitches or clips to close the incisions they made during the operation and these will be removed around 10 days after the procedure.

Before you leave hospital, a follow-up clinic appointment will be made, usually for four to six weeks later. The scars from the operation may be sensitive or sore for several weeks, and some numbness around the scar is common. There will be a permanent scar. There may also be twinges or a drawing sensation around the scars for some months, but most people feel back to normal by about 12 weeks after the operation.

Keyhole surgery

If the operation was keyhole surgery, recovery time is shorter and there is usually less pain afterwards. After this type of surgery you will normally need four to six weeks of recovery time at home before resuming your normal activities. Painkillers may be needed for a while, depending on an individuals symptoms. You will be asked to come in for a follow-up appointment four to six weeks after the operation.

Psychological impact

Getting back to normal life

You should return to exercise gradually and gently and build up any exercise routine slowly.

Further reading

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Kidney Donation Process Overview

What it’s like to be a living kidney donor
  • Contact the Transplant Center: Individuals who wish to be considered to donate a kidney must contact the Living Kidney Donation Program at to indicate their interest in donation. The Transplant Center cannot initiate contact with potential donors until they declare their interest. Potential donors will speak with a member of the living donor team who will begin the process by asking questions that include demographic information, personal and family general health history, medications and social history.
  • Blood Type Matching: Potential living donors are tested to determine blood type.
  • Tissue Typing: Potential donors who are medically eligible will need to have blood drawn for tissue typing. Tissue typing determines compatibility with the recipient. If the donor and recipient are not compatible, they may be eligible for our paired donation program. The paired kidney donation program is offered to patients who have donors that do not match their blood type or who cannot accept a kidney from a donor because there is a strong chance they would reject the kidney. The patient and donor are then paired with other patients and donors to find matches.
  • Living donors are free to confidentially withdraw at any time during the donation evaluation process and are not obligated to donate.

    To learn more about testing and living donation or learn more with our living donor education booklet and .

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    How Do I Donate A Kidney

    If you know someone who needs a kidney, and you are interested in donating a kidney :

    • Learn about the benefits and risks of living kidney donation.
    • Contact the transplant center where the potential recipient is registered.
    • The transplant center will set up an evaluation to find out if you are healthy enough to donate and a good match for your kidney recipient.
    • If the transplant center decides that you are healthy and you are a good match for your recipient, they may approve and schedule your donation.

    How to prepare for your living kidney donation.

    If you are not a match for your kidney recipient, you may still be able to help through a paired kidney exchange. This allows you to donate your kidney to a different recipient in exchange for a kidney that is a match for your recipient. Talk with the transplant center if you would like to take part in a paired kidney exchange.

    You can also donate a kidney to someone you do not know, which is called a living nondirected donation. If you are interested in a nondirected donation, contact a local transplant center. You will never be forced to donate.

    What Are The Requirements For A Kidney Transplant

    If you have advanced kidney disease, you may be eligible for a transplant. You will need to be evaluated by a transplant center, which will do a number of tests to determine whether you are a good candidate for a kidney transplant. In general, qualifications for kidney transplant include having chronic irreversible kidney disease, being on dialysis now or being close to needing dialysis. You may be ineligible for a kidney transplant if you have an additional life-threatening disease, a history of chronic drug or alcohol abuse, or a serious psychiatric disorder.

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    Is There An Age Limit For Being A Living Kidney Donor

    There is no official maximum age limit for becoming a living kidney donor. It is harder for an older donor to qualify for donation surgery but the National Kidney Registry has had donors who were in their late-70s when they donated. The minimum age for donation is 18-25 depending on the transplant center.

    If you are considering donating a kidney in the future, but are concerned your age may be an issue, the National Kidney Registry Voucher Program lets potential donors donate a kidney now and give vouchers to up to five family members. If any of the voucher holders need a kidney in the future, they can activate their voucher to receive priority consideration for a well-matched kidney from a living donor through the NKR. Only one voucher can be redeemed per voucher donor.

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    Who Pays My Hospital Costs


    In the United States, your medical costs will be covered by the recipient’s medical insurance. Most insurance companies cover 100% of the medical costs of a transplant, including pretransplant evaluations and lab tests. If the recipient does not have medical insurance, your medical costs will be covered by Medicare.

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    Start With Your Inner Circle When Considering Donors But Don’t Be Afraid To Branch Out

    Many patients feel more comfortable talking first with family members and friends about donating a kidney. But its always a good idea to expand your pool of potential donors.

    • Craft a thoughtful post that can be shared on social media.
    • Tell your story to co-workers, in your place of worship, or through other community groups.

    The more people who learn about your need for a kidney, the greater your chances of finding a donor match. Sometimes my patients have found a donor where they have least expected it.

    I also always stress that everyone who is waiting for a kidney should talk about how there is always a need for organ donors and that people who are interested in being a donor should specify that on their drivers license.

    For example, you might start a conversation with an acquaintance by saying something like: You may not know this, but Im on the waiting list for a kidney. Since I have kidney failure, a new kidney is the only cure for my condition. There are 100,000 people like me who are waiting for kidneys.Im glad to talk about what it means to be a living kidney donor, if youre interested.”

    Psychosocial Socioeconomic And Emotional Risks

    Considering living donation can be scary and challenging for the potential donor.

    On one hand, the potential donor may be worried about their potential recipient or may feel guilty about the health problems that person is experiencing. On the other hand, the potential donor will likely feel stress and concern related to the possibility of donating their organ, which requires them to undergo surgery themselves.

    The good news is that most potential donors have similar questions and concerns. Dedicated donor teams including transplant coordinators, physicians, social workers, and psychiatrists are well-versed in helping potential donors answer these questions for themselves and cope with any issues that arise.

    Some concerns expressed by many potential donors include:

    • Who will take care of me/my children after I donate?
    • Am I responsible for uncovered expenses such as travel expenses, childcare, elder care, etc.?
    • What do I do if I feel coerced into donating?
    • Will my employer allow me to take the needed time off and/or will my job be stable while I am gone?
    • How will I feel if my recipient does not do as well as expected after the transplant or if they do not comply with their post-transplant regimen?
    • How will I feel if my recipient is not “grateful enough” for what I went through to donate my kidney?
    • How will I feel if the transplanted organ fails?

    Living kidney donors may be at risk for experiencing the following:

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    Texas Inmate Asks To Delay Execution For Kidney Donation

    A Texas inmate who is set to be put to death in less than two weeks asked that his execution be delayed so he can donate a kidney.

    Ramiro Gonzales is scheduled to receive a lethal injection on July 13 for fatally shooting 18-year-old Bridget Townsend, a southwest Texas woman whose remains were found nearly two years after she vanished in 2001.

    In a letter sent Wednesday, Gonzales’ lawyers, Thea Posel and Raoul Schonemann, asked Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to grant a 30-day reprieve so the inmate can be considered a living donor “to someone who is in urgent need of a kidney transplant.”

    His attorneys have made a separate request to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles for a 180-day reprieve related to the kidney donation.

    In their request to Abbott, Gonzales’ attorneys included a letter from Cantor Michael Zoosman, an ordained Jewish clergyman from Maryland who has been corresponding with Gonzales.

    “There has been no doubt in my mind that Ramiro’s desire to be an altruistic kidney donor is not motivated by a last-minute attempt to stop or delay his execution. I will go to my grave believing in my heart that this is something that Ramiro wants to do to help make his soul right with his God,” Zoosman wrote.

    “Virtually all that remains is the surgery to remove Ramiro’s kidney. UTMB has confirmed that the procedure could be completed within a month,” Posel and Schonemann wrote to Abbott.

    Abbott’s office did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

    Can You Live With One Kidney

    How to Become a Living Donor for Kidney Transplants

    When most of us think about kidney donation, we think of checking a box on our drivers license in case of an accident. But you dont have to be deceased to donate a kidney. Being a living kidney donor is actually more commonand safethan you might think.

    Living kidney donations save thousands of lives each year. What do you know about being a living kidney donor?

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    Where Can I Find Statistics Related To Living Donation

    You can find some statistics on the United Network for Organ Sharing web site. UNOS compiles statistics on every transplant center in the United States. To view all UNOS data, . You can find statistics on the number of non-living and living donor transplants performed at that particular center, respectively, and the graft survival rates for the transplant recipient.

    The best source of information on expected donor outcomes is from your transplant team. Talk with them about general risks including long and short term, as well as any specific concerns you have regarding your personal health status.

    for detailed statistics on short-term complications from living donation .

    How Does Living Donation Work

    Because a person can live with only one kidney, living donation offers another choice for some transplant candidates. The average waiting time for a donor kidney from a deceased donor is 3 to 5 years. A kidney from a living donor offers patients an alternative to years of dialysis and time on the national transplant waiting list. With living donation, a patient may be able to receive a transplant in 1 year or less. After donation, the living organ donors remaining kidney will enlarge, doing the work of 2 healthy kidneys.

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    Get The Facts About Kidney Donation

    Every year, thousands of living donors donate a healthy kidney to a person who has kidney disease, saving them from years of waiting for a kidney from a deceased donor, going through dialysis and complications associated with kidney failure.

    Although living kidney donation is becoming more commona record 6,860 living donors donated a kidney in 2019some people may hesitate to become a living donor because they have heard incorrect information about the kidney donation process.

    Here are some of the questions people ask about living kidney donation, and the facts as explained by Marian Charlton, RN, CCTC, who is the chief clinical transplant coordinator at Hackensack Meridian Health.


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