I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Sanofi to write about the realities of kidney transplantation. All opinions are my own.
I partnered with MedIQ to spread awareness around kidney donation because someone I care deeply about is on the kidney transplant list as I type this.
After a sudden illness that resulted in a kidney disease diagnosis in 2019, my younger brother quickly progressed to End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). You can read his full story here.
Having also been diagnosed with an autoimmune kidney disease in 2006, it’s important to me that people understand ESRD and the life-saving role of kidney donation, both by deceased donors and living donors, in the lives of those on the transplant waiting list.
When it comes to donating a kidney (or any organ), there are countless things to consider, plan for and know.
Living kidney donation is no easy decision and if you are considering embarking upon this journey for someone you know and care about or even for a complete stranger, there are countless things to contemplate.
The truth is, living kidney donation is a huge ask – you have to consider your own personal health, you’ll need to undergo many rounds of time consuming testing, and you will have to undergo surgery that involves personal risk and time away from family and work responsibilities.
However, even with all of that in mind, the potential benefits for the recipient of your living kidney donation are immense.
I was fortunate to speak with Dr. Garonzik Wang, MD, PhD., at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, about the process of kidney donation and the impact it has on donors, recipients and their families.
If you’ve ever considered living kidney donation, or even become an organ donor, I encourage you to read on, to learn about the process and why your choice is so important to those with ESRD.
Want to help Med-IQ learn more about kidney transplantation education? Complete the survey at the end of my post. You’ll be entered to win 1 of 4 $100 Visa gift cards when you do!
Donating a Kidney: Real Things You Need To Know About Kidney Donation
If you’re thinking about donating a kidney…
According to the National Kidney Foundation, there are over 120,000 people in the United States on the organ transplant list, and just over 100,000 of them are waiting for kidneys.
The amount of time a patient remains on the transplant list varies from 3-5 years on average. People awaiting kidneys are often undergoing dialysis throughout this time.
While dialysis is a life saving treatment that we are so fortunate to have, it’s a process that can dramatically alter your way of life. Getting a new kidney and ending dialysis is a goal many look forward to as they await a transplant.
If just 1% of the U.S. population donated a kidney, it would wipe out the entire donor list!
Whether you’re considering donating a kidney as a living donor or are just willing to put that organ donor sticker on your driver’s license, it’s important to know that your donation could have a dramatic impact on the need for lifesaving kidney transplants.
Receiving a living kidney donation is more beneficial for recipients than receiving a deceased kidney donation.
The process for becoming a living donor is pretty involved, requiring potential donors to undergo a variety of health tests and exams designed to ensure that they (and their kidneys) are going to have very few adverse effects from the donation process.
To be approved to donate, you don’t just have to match a donor, you have to also be in great health yourself – the last thing anyone wants is for you, as a donor, to struggle to survive or endure negative health impacts from your kidney donation.
That means that kidneys from living donors are super healthy kidneys that go directly from a super healthy person to the individual in need.
Deceased donor kidneys, while a viable option for those in need aren’t quite as healthy initially. They may be stressed and usually spend a longer time on ice while they’re being transferred between hospitals. This means they can take a while to “wake up” again, which could subject them to other complications or require the recipient to remain on dialysis for a time following transplant.
In addition, a living donor kidney could potentially last a lifetime for the recipient whereas a kidney from a deceased donor will likely not last as long.
Watch this Facebook live interview about kidney donation
If someone you care about is on the transplant list…
Know that a support system is a vitally important part of that journey for the patient.
Family and friends play an important role in providing emotional support to a patient with end-stage renal disease and through their journey in finding a kidney donor and receiving a transplant.
From countless doctors’ appointments to the daily mental and physical stresses you are under as someone with a life altering chronic illness, having people willing and able to help can be a huge relief.
Beyond emotional support, family and friends can support a patient by helping them spread the word about their search for a kidney donor.
Often, patients themselves are not comfortable saying they are sick, let alone asking for a kidney – and here is where the voice and amplification by a patient’s family and friends plays a critically important role.
Being a champion for a patient can help spread that awareness and let people know about the donation process and how vital it is for the patient.
When my brother got put on the transplant waiting list earlier this year, I posted about him on my social channels and was able to reach thousands of people.
We haven’t located a donor for him yet, but we do have people who are going through the process and we are hopeful that we will find one soon.
It was also a great way to build awareness about living kidney donation in general.
According to Dr. Garonzik Wang, 25% of people would be willing to donate a kidney if they knew someone needed a kidney.
Now you know that thousands of people need a kidney and all you have to do to start the process to find out if you can help is register to become a donor!
If you’re not sure how to help your loved one as they search for a kidney, here are some things you can do:
- Offer to drive them to appointments.
- Make them dinner.
- Spend a day doing tasks around the house for them that they may no longer have time or energy for.
- Post on your social media about their need for a kidney donor – be sure to share their transplant team’s info too in case people are interested in learning more.
- Accompany them to a meeting with their transplant team to better educate yourself about the process.
- Hand out business cards with educational information to people in your community.
- Participate in a kidney walk in their honor.
- Give their significant other a break – many don’t realize how challenging it can be for someone who is living with someone with a chronic illness.
- Ask them how you can support them and be willing to follow through!
There are many other ways you can help your loved one cope with ESRD and the process of finding a kidney. These are just a few we have found helpful.
Complete this survey: Med-IQ is conducting an anonymous survey and would appreciate your input. The survey will take less than 10 minutes to complete. Survey responses are shared only in aggregate. Your responses to these survey questions will provide Med-IQ with important information about kidney transplantation, which will help us develop future educational initiatives. Once you have completed the survey, you will have the option of providing your email address to be entered into a drawing administered by SOMA Strategies to win 1 of 4 $100 VISA gift cards. If you choose to enter, your email address will only be used to randomly draw the winners and notify them of their prize.
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