When choosing to be a living donor to a patient in need of a kidney, you are giving that person a renewed chance at life without compromising your own. You are born with two kidneys, but you only need one for your body to function properly.
You are shortening the wait time for your loved one to wait for a donated kidney. A typical wait is about a 3- to 5-year wait for a deceased donor kidney. There is more time to prepare for the transplantation with a living donor; surgery can be scheduled to ensure both the donor and the recipient are in the best of health, both physically and emotionally. Plus, you are freeing up the kidney waiting list for others.
Matching and Evaluations
Once you decide to donate your kidney, the first step is for the transplant team to evaluate the following:
Matching Tests - Matching tests check to see if the donor's blood type and kidney will be compatible with the recipient's. These tests include blood-typing, tissue-matching and cross-matching. (These terms are defined on the Common Terms webpage.)
Health Exams - There will be plenty of general health exams to make sure you are in good health to donate your kidney. These could include blood tests, kidney function test, ultrasound of your kidneys, urine test, chest x-ray, EKG and routine screenings such as a PAP smear for women or colonoscopy.
Counseling - You will be evaluated psychologically to ensure you are mentally and emotionally prepared to handle donating your kidney.
Work Scheduling - You will need to take off about 3-4 weeks from work for a desk job or 6 weeks for jobs with physical labor.
Financial Considerations - Donor testing, surgery and follow-up visits are covered by the recipient's Medicare and/or insurance. Expenses such as travel, lodging and meals are the responsibility of the donor. The National Living Donor Assistance Center can potentially help a donor with these costs. A donor should also make financial arrangements to cover any unpaid time off from work. The Financial Coordinator can help you through the maze of financial considerations.
Recovery from removing your kidney is like recovering from surgery for other things; you will be advised to rest until healed. You may be advised not to engage in contact sports to reduce the chance that the remaining kidney could become seriously injured.
You should also be sure to maintain a healthy weight, exercise and eat healthy so your remaining kidney can function at optimal performance.