What is living donation?
A living donor is someone who gives one of their kidneys and is still alive. This person can be a family member, friend or someone not related like a friend of a friend, coworker, someone from their place of worship, or neighbor. They don’t even have to have the same blood type as the person getting the kidney because there are programs that can help them find a match.
The most common organ given by a living donor is the kidney.
What are the advantages of living donation over deceased donation?
Getting a kidney from a living donor can have some benefits:
- Sometimes, the donor is a family member who has similar genes. When the genes match, there’s less risk of the body rejecting the new kidney.
- When someone gives a kidney while still alive, the kidney can start working right away. With a kidney from someone who has died, it might take a while to start working, and the patient may need dialysis in the meantime.
- Doctors can test possible donors to find the best match for the person who needs a kidney. The transplant can happen when it’s a good time for both the donor and the person getting the kidney.
- Usually, a kidney from a living donor lasts longer than one from someone who has died. On average, it lasts about 15 to 20 years. Sometimes, it might last even longer, but other times it might not last as long.
What to expect after donation
- After donating a kidney, the time you spend in the hospital will depend on how quickly you recover and the type of surgery. Usually, people stay in the hospital for 1 to 3 nights.
- Living with only one kidney is okay and normal. The donor will have a normal life after the surgery as long as they have been cleared for donation by a doctor. After the donated kidney is removed, the remaining kidney will grow bigger to make up for the missing kidney.
- Donating a kidney will not affect your lifespan or increase the risk of kidney problems. Most people with one kidney live normal and healthy lives, but it’s important to talk to your transplant team about the risks of donation.
- Some studies show that living donors may be more likely to have high blood pressure, so it’s recommended that potential donors speak with their doctor about the risks of living donation.
Will my donor regret donating?
After giving a kidney, some living donors feel many different emotions. They might feel happy and relieved, but also nervous or sad. Sometimes, donors don’t have enough time to think about everything they are feeling before the surgery. It’s normal for donors to have strong feelings after the transplant is done.
Most donors have a good experience and think positively about donating. Studies show that between 80 and 97 percent of donors say they would still choose to donate if they could go back in time.
We don’t have a lot of information about how donating a kidney affects people mentally, but some studies have found that:
- Less than 1% of donors regretted their decision
- 3 to 10% felt depressed
- 10% had problems with their family
- 7% had anxiety issues
- 16% were worried about how donating would affect them financially
- 3 to 15% were worried about their health after donation.