I Think I'd Like To Donate One of My Kidneys. Who Should I Call?
If you know who you'd like to donate one of your kidneys to, then ask that potential recipient for their transplant center's contact information, so you can call in for the initial telephone screening. (Only potential donors can initiate this type of call to ensure the center that the caller is acting on their own volition). The main purpose of this initial call is to document your interest, and begin the pre-screening process for donor candidacy. While you'll be asked several health questions, this is also a perfect time to ask questions of your own.
If you do not have a person in mind, you can call a transplant center in your area and tell them you'd like to be an altruistic kidney donor. You may also email us at email@example.com to see if we might happen to know someone in need, who you could consider helping.
What Type of Testing Does The Donor Have To Go Through?
After potential donors are approved to proceed with further testing, they will be scheduled for a series of tests like laboratory and X-ray tests, as well as an EKG. These tests screen for kidney function, liver function, hepatitis, heart disease, lung disease, and past exposure to viral illness. Urine testing is also done to make sure that the donor's kidneys function normally. A CT angiogram (a computerized tomography, or CTA) scan might also be required.
Additionally, the potential donor's routine (annual) health maintenance tests (e.g., pap smear, mammogram, colonoscopy, etc.), and necessary medical clearances for pre-existing conditions need to be submitted to the living donor team for review.
Donors are then asked to meet with both a clinical social worker for a psychosocial evaluation and a surgeon for medical consultation. Once all results from the entire evaluation process are available, they are reviewed by a multidisciplinary committee that decides whether the donor is able to safely proceed with the donation. Due to strict protocols and guidelines, potential donors are often turned down, so it's wise to have back-up donors lined up to minimize lost time and distractions from disappointment.
Although it seems that these tests would take several weeks, or even months to complete, proactive donors have been known to consecutively schedule their appointments and complete their tests in about 4 days.
How Long is the Donor Hospitalized?
Today, most donor surgeries are done laparoscopically, requiring a few small incisions. The donor is typically admitted to the hospital the same day of surgery, and released in about 2 days. All medical costs are covered by the recipient’s insurance, so the donor has no out-of-pocket expenses. Most donors are allowed to return to work in two to three weeks, depending on how strenuous their jobs are.
How Long is the Donor Off Work?
Most people are able to return to work after two to three weeks, depending on their recovery from surgery and the type of job they have. Donors who have a "desk job" or who do most of their work by phone or computer may be able to return to work much sooner than patients with a more physically demanding job.
What's the Donor's Benefit/Risk Ratio?
Any time someone undergoes major surgery there are risks. The most common ones are infections at the incision site and pain immediately following surgery. However, because the procedure is performed laparoscopically, incisions are very small, which significantly reduces discomfort and expedites healing. The statistical risk of dying from this type of surgery is said to be less than one percent.
Generally, living donors feel honored to be of service. And the vast majority (96%) say they would do it again if they could. Donors also report a higher quality of life, perhaps linked to a feelings of self-worth and self appreciation, as a result of their gift.
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