Kidney disease can stem from any number of causes, but it’s an unfortunately common issue relative to the number of people who experience any kind of organ failure. In fact, according to the American Kidney Fund, there are approximately 100,000 Americans waiting for a kidney transplant at any given time. Many of these patients wait for years or, ultimately, die while on the list. That’s because there just aren’t enough registered and eligible organ donors to provide kidneys for these patients – but one thing that can help is encouraging living donor kidney transplants.
Living Organ Donation
There are only a few organs that can be provided by living donors, with kidneys top among them because, although the human body has two of them, it’s possible to live with just one. That doesn’t mean there’s a lot of enthusiasm for the practice, though. People are hesitant to give an organ because, what happens if their remaining kidney fails? And what about the surgery? Even when the recipient is a close relative, it takes a great deal of bravery to donate a kidney.
The good news is that that living kidney donors needn’t worry much about offering an organ. Not only is kidney donation a relatively low-risk surgery and often performed laparoscopically, but in the event that a donor’s remaining organ eventually fails, they are moved to the top of the waiting list. Their sacrifice is recognized. But not just anyone can step up to donate a kidney.
To become a living kidney donor, individuals have to undergo extensive screenings. Kidney donors need to be in good physical health, must have a compatible blood and tissue type, and must undergo a psychiatric evaluation. That last criteria is important because the evaluator is looking not just for uncontrolled mental illness, but also for any signs that the donor is acting under duress or being inappropriately coerced to donate an organ. Organ donors can’t be shown to be under pressure or be financially compensated for their donation.
The majority of kidney donations occur between relatives or friends. In fact, when someone needs an organ donation, families often arrange for community donor screenings to find a match if no immediate relative qualifies. However, because living donation is possible and because it is a comparatively low-risk surgery, sometimes doctors will make an exciting arrangement to give more patients a chance at donation: a transplant chain or domino transplant.
In such chains, living donors who wish to donate a kidney to a friend or relative, instead volunteer to give their organ to a stranger in return for their chosen recipient receiving a kidney from this shared pool. This can be just two or three people, or be an elaborate chain of surgeries involving five or more donors. It’s an amazing way to reduce wait times and help patients resume their normal lives.
Many patients wait for almost two years for a kidney, often undergoing dialysis three times a week in order to eliminate toxins from the body. They may have to leave their jobs, live on their savings and Social Security benefits, and incur significant medical debt. It’s a stressful and devastating time that always has the possibility of ending in death. For those in kidney failure, though, living organ donors can make a world of difference. They save lives – and that is a rare and amazing thing.
Photo is Wikimedia Creative Commons
Guest Author Bio
Jamie is a freelance writer who covers trends in business, technology, and health. She loves to go skiing, camping, and rock climbing with her family.