The first step in deciding to donate a kidney is to learn as much as you can about the donation process.
It is important to consider all the potential benefits and risks before committing to anything.
If you choose to reach out to a transplant center and start the evaluation process, they will also provide a lot of education and information along the way.
It is important that you always feel informed about the decisions you are making and comfortable with the outcome of those decisions.
You are free to opt out of the donation process at any time if you decide that donation is not the right choice for you.
Before coming to the transplant center and beginning the evaluation process, you will have a phone conversation with your center’s living donor nurse coordinator.
The coordinator will ask you some basic questions about your medical, surgical, and psychosocial history, and will also help you schedule your first in-person appointment at the transplant center.
In the first stage of evaluation, you will undergo tissue typing and lab screening.
Blood and tissue typing check to see which recipients you are compatible with, and also check to see how well your kidney would be accepted by the recipient.
Lab testing may include tests such as:
You will need to meet with transplant physicians to discuss the procedure and its risks and to undergo a full day of appointments and diagnostic testing.
The full day may include tests such as:
After your full day evaluation, there will be a waiting period that ranges from 2-4 weeks.
During this period, the center checks to see if you are a match with any potential recipients.
Once these steps are completed, your case will be presented to a diverse transplant team. They will review all of your test results and decide if donation is the right choice at this time for you, for the recipient, and for the center.
The transplant team may include members such as:
At the end of the process, your surgeon and living donor coordinator will continue to answer any questions you have. It is important that you feel completely comfortable and confident with your decision to donate before moving forward with the process.
You can take as long as you need to decide before scheduling an official surgery date. Even at this point in the process, you are still free to change your mind if you decide that surgery isn’t right for you at this time.
A kidney can be removed in either of two ways: the traditional open surgery or the laparoscopic technique. Some donors may not be able to have laparoscopic surgery because of previous surgeries or anatomical variations.
These anatomical variations are generally detected during the testing process, at which time the potential donor would be notified that they would not be a candidate for laparoscopic donation. Some scheduled laparoscopic donations must be converted to the open technique during the surgery process.
Once all the testing has been successfully completed, the operation is scheduled. A general anesthetic is administered in the operating room. Generally, the donor and the recipient are in adjacent operating rooms. The kidney is carefully removed and transplanted into the recipient and immediately takes over the work previously done by the recipient’s two kidneys.
Typically, the surgery takes 3-5 hours with time in the recovery room afterward for observation.
After surgery, most donors stay in the hospital for just a few days.
When a donor is released from the hospital, he or she will need 4-6 weeks for full recovery. During this time, it is best to remain healthy by eating nourishing foods and resting as much as possible.
A donor may be able to go back to work within a week or two of the surgery, but he or she must remember to take things slowly and allow rest and time for recovery.
Donors should maintain a healthy lifestyle after surgery to make sure that their remaining kidney stays in good shape. Donors should:
It is also important that donors avoid taking anti-inflammatory drugs like Aspirin, Advil, Motrin, and Ibuprofen. These medicines put a lot of strain on the kidneys, and are not safe for a person with only one kidney to take. You can use Tylenol as a safe alternative to these medicines.
Give & Live was launched at the White House Organ Donation Summit in June 2016 to build a database of individuals interested in becoming living donors. By signing up, you will receive information about local transplant centers in your area and will be notified about living donation opportunities and initiatives, including participation in kidney donation chains. Signing up does not match you with a program or patient waiting; it is the first of many steps in exploring living donation and is meant to empower you to begin your journey.