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What To Do If You Want To Donate A Kidney

What Is Living Donation

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Living donation takes place when a living person donates an organ for transplantation to another person. The living donor can be a family member, such as a parent, child, brother or sister .

Living donation can also come from someone who is emotionally related to the recipient, such as a good friend, spouse or an in-law . Thanks to improved medications, a genetic link between the donor and recipient is no longer required to ensure a successful transplant.

In some cases, living donation may even be from a stranger, which is called anonymous or non-directed donation.

How To Prepare Your Home

Youâll probably be tired and in some pain after your surgery. You also won’t be able to drive for about 2 weeks. Ask a family member or friend ahead of time to shop, cook meals, care for your kids, and run errands for you while you get better.

You might have trouble getting up and down stairs for a few days. Set up a bed on the lower level of your home to avoid the climb. Also have a chair with arms to help you push yourself up.

Ask your doctor what supplies — like bandages and antiseptic — you’ll need to clean your wound, and stock them ahead of time.

Guide To Living Kidney Donation

Donating a kidney so someone can live a life free of dialysis is one of the greatest gifts a person can give. This unselfish act to a relative, loved one, or friend gives the donor an opportunity to greatly improve the quality of life for someone they love or want to help.

In our community and across the country, thousands of people are in need of a kidney transplant. The United Network for Organ Sharing Wait List continues to grow every year, while the number of deceased donor organs has remained steady over the past decade. The shortage has prompted a nationwide effort to increase living organ donation.

This guide will explain the process involved in the testing and acceptance of a potential donor. It is intended to answer questions for those considering donation, as we understand this is an emotional, personal and sometimes difficult decision.

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What If A Kidney Donor Needs A Transplant Later

If youâre considering becoming a kidney donor — giving up one of your two healthy kidneys — you might be wondering what happens if, years or even decades from now, your remaining kidney fails.

Becoming a kidney donor can slightly predispose you to some health problems that might lead to the need for a kidney transplant later in life. After all, one kidney is doing the job normally done by two.

If that happened, you would not automatically go to the head of the list for donated kidneys. But having been a donor would come with some advantages.

Because of this, the national Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network , which is in charge of matching kidneys with patients, will give you four extra points in its system if you have been a kidney donor. And the more points you have, the higher you move on the waiting list for a new kidney. In other words, previous kidney donors get âpriorityâ status to receive a donor kidney if they need one.

Just how likely is it that youâd need to take advantage of this priority status? Between 2010 and 2015, about 200 people in the U.S. who had been kidney donors were added to the national kidney waiting list. Thatâs an average of 40 a year.

Compare that with the more than 5,000 people who become living kidney donors each year, and youâll see that you have a low chance — less than one in a hundred — of needing a kidney transplant after donating one of yours.

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You Dont Have To Be Related To Someone To Donate A Kidney To Them

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In fact, one in four living organ donors is not biologically related to the recipient . Spouses, in-laws, close friends, church members, and even members of the same community can all be living donors.

It’s true that family members have a higher chance of being a good match. But living donor transplants are more successful compared to kidneys from deceased donors because these kidneys come from living donors.

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The Following Are Examples Of Some Of The Tests You May Be Asked To Complete As Part Of The Evaluation For Becoming A Living Kidney Donor:

1. Blood Tests: to check blood type compatibility between you and the transplant candidate.

  • Blood Type Compatibility Chart
Transplant Candidates Blood Type
O
A, B, AB, or OAB

The Rh factor in blood type is not important in compatibility.

  • Tissue Typing: This blood test checks the tissue match between six codes on the transplant candidates and your white blood cells.
  • Crossmatching: determines how the transplant candidate will react to your kidney. A positive crossmatch means your organ is incompatible with the candidate. A negative crossmatch means that your kidney is compatible with the candidate.
  • Antibody Screen: When a foreign substance enters a persons body, a protein substance is created in response to that antigen. Results of this test will determine if the transplant candidate has antibodies in his or her body that would react to your antigens.
  • Blood tests to screen for transmissible disease: These tests determine whether you have HIV, hepatitis, cancer, and other transmissible diseases.

2. Urine Tests: A 24-hour urine sample is collected to examine your kidney function.

3. Chest X-Ray and Electrocardiogram : These tests screen for heart and lung disease. Depending upon your age and medical history, further testing may be needed.

4. Radiologic Testing: These tests allow physicians to view your kidneys, including their blood supply. Tests can include a CAT scan, MRI, and arteriogram.

6. Gynecological screening: Female donors receive a gynecological examination.

What Potential Donors Need To Know About Living Kidney Donation

    Pop singer Selena Gomez revealed personal news in mid-September 2017 that shocked her fans: The 25-year-old had recently received a kidney transplant due to complications of lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease. And the donor? Her best friend, 29-year-old actress Francia Raisa.

    Questions began to pour in about the starlets condition: How could someone so young have kidney failure? What will Raisas life be like now with one kidney?

    Though Gomezs story was high-profile, her situation actually is quite common. More than 96,000 people were on the waiting list for a kidney in October 2017, according to data from the United Network for Organ Sharing . And in 2016, nearly 30 percent of the more than 19,000 kidneys transplanted in the U.S. came from living kidney donors such as Raisa people with two healthy kidneys who voluntarily have one removed to transplant in someone whose kidneys have failed.

    For someone who needs a kidney transplant, asking a loved one or friend is a major request. Likewise, its a huge gift when a donor agrees. Living kidney donation can be a really beautiful, bonding experience. And living kidney donation is incredibly safe for donors fewer than 1 percent of donors will wind up on dialysis themselves in the future, which is only slightly higher than the average risk of an individual with two healthy kidneys.

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    When Is A Kidney Donation Needed

    A kidney transplant is used to treat kidney failure , a condition in which kidneys can function at only a fraction of their normal capacity. People with end-stage kidney disease need either dialysis or a kidney transplant to stay alive.

    Causes of kidney failure may include diabetes, polycystic kidney disease , chronic uncontrolled high blood pressure , or chronic glomerulonephritis .

    What To Know About Kidney Donation Risks And Considerations

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    Here are some things to know before donating a kidney:

    • If you decide to donate, the transplant hospital will assign you an advocate who will discuss what typically happens before, during and after surgery and answer all your questions.
    • Youll want to be sure you have adequate medical insurance in case pre-donation screening finds a condition requiring treatment or you have a medical problem after the kidney removal.
    • After donating a kidney, it may be more difficult to get life insurance or disability insurance, and your rates may go up.
    • Women who donate a kidney and later become pregnant may have more complications in pregnancy.
    • When living with 1 kidney, you’ll have annual checkups to make sure its working well. Youll also need blood pressure checks every year since it tends to go up slightly after kidney donation.
    • Its common to have strong emotions after donating a kidney. You might feel depressed, even if everything goes well. Getting support after organ donation is important. Contact your transplant center about resources or find a mental health professional that can help.
    • It doesnt happen often, but if you donate a kidney and your remaining kidney fails, youll be given high priority on the transplant waiting list for a kidney donation.

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    What Happens To Living Donors After They Donate Their Kidney

    After their operation, kidney donors have follow-up appointments immediately after surgery, at six months and then one and two years after donation to ensure their health is in stable condition after donating. Donors typically recover faster than recipients and report that they are glad they donated their organ to someone in need.

    Faq: Living Kidney Donor

    Most kidneys for transplant are from people who have died and whose families give permission for organ donation. But there aren’t enough of these organs for everyone who needs one. Nationally, more than 70,000 patients are on the kidney transplant waiting list, and more are added each year.

    Living donor kidney transplants are an important option. They’re possible because we’re born with two kidneys. When surgeons remove one of the donor’s kidneys, the remaining kidney grows slightly to compensate for the loss of the other and the kidney can function normally.

    Here are some questions and answers about living donor kidney transplants:

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    Kidney Donation After Death

    You can register your decision to donate your organs after death through the Australian Organ Donor Register. Kidney transplants have a high success rate and by donating after death, you will be giving someone the potential to have a longer and more active life than they would have had on dialysis treatment.A transplant from a deceased donor can be used for medically suitable people who have been stabilised on dialysis.You must be declared dead before your organs and body tissues can be used. The two legal definitions of death in Australia are:

    • brain death when a person’s brain permanently stops functioning
    • circulatory death when a person’s heart permanently stops functioning in their body.

    The type of death and the health of the organs and tissues of the potential donor dictate how the organ and tissue donation process will occur, and which organs and tissues can be donated.

    Are You Willing To Live With One Kidney

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    Most healthy people have no trouble living with one kidney. You’ll probably have a catheter in for a day or two after surgery, but after that, you should urinate normally. That said, “you lose 50% of your kidney function the moment one is removed,” Vassalotti says.

    The good news: The remaining kidney actually works harder and better. Within a few weeks, it should be able to do about 70% of the work that two kidneys usually do, Vassalotti says.

    Once you’ve fully recovered, you probably won’t feel any different. But you will need to take some precautions that people with two healthy kidneys don’t need to worry about.

    Nothdurft, for example, was advised to limit his use of pain relievers that doctors call NSAIDs , because they could damage the kidney. He also sees his doctor regularly to make sure that his blood pressure is well-controlled, since high blood pressure is closely linked with kidney problems.

    You’ll also have to ask yourself how comfortable you are with fact that you’ll no longer have a kidney to spare, should you or a loved one eventually develop kidney disease.

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    Why Become A Living Donor

    Individuals volunteer to donate a kidney for a variety of reasons. Oftentimes donors are motivated by watching someone close to them wait a long time for a transplant or seeing a loved one suffer in some way as a result of kidney problems.

    Other reasons for wanting to donate a kidney include feeling a duty to do something for a loved one who is unwell or feeling that it will benefit the donors life to have their loved one free of dialysis. Research has shown the reasons for donating can vary, such as:

    • Desire to help.
    • Selfbenefit from recipients improved health.
    • Logic.

    While all these motives might be acceptable reasons to be a donor, more complex reasons can also be involved, such as:

    • Offering to donate a kidney because of feeling pressure from others , perhaps because the situation seems urgent, or it appears that the ill person has no other options.
    • Offering to donate because of feelings of guilt, or feeling that it is your duty as a close relative/ friend.
    • Offering to donate to right past wrongs, to feel good about yourself, or to feel closer to the person to whom you are donating.

    Most people have a number of reasons for donating, and it is normal for different issues to come up when you are thinking about becoming a donor. It is important that these are discussed openly during your donor work-up, and this discussion forms part of your meeting with the team, particularly the psychologist.

    How Do I Find Out If Its Safe For Me To Donate A Kidney

    Here at UT Southwestern, the first step in our potential donor screening process is a kidney donation application. This application allows a wider net of potential donors to participate, even if they live across the country from the recipient.

    A relatively healthy person in his or her 30s to 50s likely will fly through the form. The application asks for basic health details, such as age, height, and weight. We also ask for personal medical history, particularly pertaining to diseases that could lead to kidney problems down the road, such as:

    • AIDS/HIV
    • Smoking or vaping
    • Urinary problems

    Individuals with a history of these diseases might be screened out immediately. If theres a high risk that a potential donor might develop kidney problems later in life, giving up a kidney today is not a healthy choice.

    Obesity and smoking can be exceptions for some potential donors because these risk factors sometimes can be reversed. Smokers and vapers can quit with help from their doctor and might be able to reapply, depending on their overall health.

    We actually see return applicants fairly often. It can be tough for someone to quit smoking or lose weight, but saving the life of another person is pretty great motivation!

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    Remember That Its Normal To Feel Blue

    âDonating a kidney is an incredible gift,â Taber says. Knowing that youâre helping another person stay alive can make you feel great, even long after the surgery is done.

    Even so, itâs normal to feel blue, especially in the weeks after donation. âPeople in the medical community put you on a pedestal. But after surgery, youâre back home, and it can feel like youâre on your own. That can be tough,â says Lee Adams. She lives in the Baltimore area and donated a kidney to her brother-in-law in 2007.

    Fortunately, that âwhat now?â feeling is usually short lived. Even so, donât wait to seek help if youâre sad — or even if you just have questions or concerns.

    âDonation is major surgery,â says Adams, who now frequently speaks with people who plan to donate. âSince you werenât the one with kidney disease, you might feel guilty expressing doubt. But you should always feel good about speaking up. I still call my donor coordinator when I need to, and she happily answers every time.â

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    What Happens After Surgery

    Information about donating a kidney

    Your doctor will prescribe medications to help manage your pain. Theyâll also want you to get up and start moving around shortly afterward.

    As with any operation, there are possible aftereffects, like pain and infection. When you only have one kidney, there’s a greater chance of long-term issues like high blood pressure. Talk to your doctor about the possible problems you might face.

    After donation, you should be able to live a pretty normal life. You’ll have to take pain pills for a short time after surgery. Your remaining kidney will grow bigger to help make up for the one thatâs gone. Your doctor may want you to make a few changes in your physical activity. They might tell you to avoid contact sports like football or soccer in order to protect your kidney.

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    How To Talk To Friends And Family

    They might have concerns about you donating a kidney. Learn all you can about the procedure and its risks so you know how to respond. Be open and honest. If they still don’t get it, bring them with you to a doctor’s visit. Or refer them to a counselor who can explain the process.

    Ask one family member or friend you trust to be your point person during the surgery. This person can let everyone on your list know how you’re doing so you don’t have to make a lot of calls. You should arrange for them to stay with you the first night after your surgery, too.

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