The Real Superheroes: Living Donors
Those who donate a kidney have the power to help restore health.
For someone with a failing kidney, getting the call about an available organ is a life-changer. Most people spend three to five years on the transplant list, needing dialysis and other serious medical care while waiting. About 13 people in the United States die every day while waiting for a kidney transplant.
Any kidney available for donation can be a lifesaving gift. However, gifts from living donors have several advantages. A kidney from a living donor usually starts functioning immediately, whereas patients who receive a kidney from a deceased donor may require dialysis until their new kidney begins to function on its own. A living donation also allows flexibility in scheduling the procedure, as well as the opportunity to find the best possible match for the patient and reduce the risk of rejection after transplant.
“When someone is a living donor, he or she saves the life of the recipient as well as another person on the waiting list who will not have to wait as long for a deceased donor,” says Robyn Dye, M.S.N., M.B.A., R.N., C.C.T.C., transplant administrator of the Kidney Transplant Program at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth. “Many patients do not have a living donor, so that gift is very special.”
Answering the Call
The decision to donate is intensely personal and involves many factors. Some occupations in the military or public service require both kidneys, and if you are already at risk for certain health problems, you may wish to keep both kidneys.
If you do decide to donate, donors at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth do not have a long hospital stay and typically return to work after four weeks.
“Many people believe you need to be a relative or have a genetic link to the person receiving the donation,” Dye says. “This isn’t true — a simple blood test can tell the person if he or she is a match with the potential recipient.”
Can I Give?
Before a transplant, the potential donor goes through a medical evaluation to make sure he or she is physically healthy enough to give a kidney. It’s also important to make sure you know your rights and have an opportunity to discuss any second thoughts, misgivings or questions you may have.
“The living donor advocate plays a big role in making sure donors don’t feel pressured,” Dye says. “We have strict confidentiality rules for our donors. If a potential donor changes his or her mind for any reason, the donor can speak with us privately about that decision, and we can inform the potential recipient that their donor was not a candidate in order to avoid hard feelings.”
Your medical team — including a dietician, social worker and living donor advocate — will decide if you are a suitable candidate for donation.
Physicians on the medical staff practice independently and are not employees or agents of the hospital or Texas Health Resources.