Living donation is the process of transplanting a kidney from a healthy individual into a person with kidney failure. Living donors can be family members (living related donors) or people with whom you have an emotional connection such as a spouse or a friend (living unrelated donors). Often described as The Gift of Life, living donation gives the recipient freedom from dialysis and allows them to enjoy a longer life full of energy and productivity.
About half of all kidneys available for transplant come from people who have died and whose families give permission for organ donation. There are not enough of these organs, however, for everyone who needs them.
Living donor kidney transplants are therefore an important option. There are several advantages to a living donor kidney transplant, including:
- The transplant can occur sooner; sometimes before the need for dialysis.
- A live donor organ will be healthier and better functioning.
- A live donor kidney lasts twice as long. Live donor kidneys transplanted today will function for an average of 20 years.
- The live donor operation is safe for the donor.
The University of California Davis Kidney Transplant Program was started in 1985 and performs about 150 kidney transplants a year. Half of the organs transplanted come from living donors. Our comprehensive team of professionals includes surgeons, nephrologists, nurses, social workers, dieticians, case managers and financial counselors. Each member plays a unique critical role, and collectively their expertise and experience make the program one of the most successful in the nation
The process for the donor begins with the completion of a health questionnaire. The living donor nurse coordinator will review the information provided. If there are no immediate concerns, a blood type and crossmatch test will be done to check for compatibility between the donor and recipient. In the past, an incompatible pair had no alternative, and the potential recipient simply stayed on the deceased donor waitlist. Now it is possible for even incompatible pairs to enjoy the many benefits of living donation. Paired donation is an option that matches incompatible donor-recipient pairs with other pairs, and they “exchange” donors. We are offering paired exchange for all incompatible donor-recipient pairs in our center. We also participate in national paired donation programs that join transplant centers together to provide a larger pool of incompatible pairs for potential exchange transplants.
Once compatibility is confirmed or the donor-recipient pair decides to pursue paired exchange, the donor will have an in depth medical evaluation. This is to protect the well being of your donor and to make sure you receive a healthy kidney.
Often patients want to ask someone to consider living donation but don’t know how to ask. Each person is different, so what might feel comfortable to one person may not be to another. No matter which of the approaches you select, the important information to convey to your potential donor includes:
- The state of your current health and that living donation is the best treatment option
- There is no obligation for any donor who wants to learn more about donation.
- The kidney donation surgery is safe, and the kidney is removed with a “scope”, which results in a shorter recovery.
- The cost of donation is covered by the recipient insurance.
Patients have approached the question in a variety of ways including:
- Sitting down with the donor in person to discuss the possibility of donation.
- Writing a letter and sending it to a large number of potential donors.
- Some patients prefer to casually comment about their hope for a living donor and wait for a positive response before moving forward with a more direct discussion.
- Some patients have had patient education materials for living donation “sitting around” on the coffee table so they are readily available to friends and family.
- Facebook has been an effective tool for some patients to make it known that they need a transplant and hope for a living donor.
- Some patients ask others to spread the word in places such as work or social circles.
The Donor-Seeker Program provides additional help for finidng living kidney donor.
Enlist a Donor Navigator to assist with advocating for a living kidney donor.