Living Donor Transplant Fills the Gap

Apr 22 10:15am | Kristin Eggebraaten | @keggebraaten

During April’s Donate Life month celebration, the transplant and organ donor community puts focus on deceased donation and signing up to be an organ donor. But we can’t forget about the population of living people who selflessly give life to loved ones and strangers who need a kidney or liver transplant – the  living organ donors.

The Need

The need for organ donors is great. Over 105,000 people are waiting for organ transplant. With this many people waiting, deceased donation can’t meet the need, so transplant centers rely on living donors to help patient’s get the organs they need.

The Decision

The decision to become a living donor shouldn’t be taken lightly and could have a huge impact on someone’s life. Living donation is a wonderful act of generosity and courage, and the preferred alternative giving hope to people waiting for a deceased kidney or liver donation. If you are interested in living donation, asking yourself these questions might help in your decision process:

  • How do I feel about donating?
  • Can I afford to take the time off work to rest and recover after surgery?
  • Do I know enough about the process to make an educated decision?
  • How may the donation change my relationship with the person I am donating to?
  • Are there current health concerns that might keep me from donating?
  • Do I have support from family members or close friends to help me through this process?
  • How will I feel if it is determined I am not able to donate?
  • Am I willing to take part in an organ donation chain if I’m not a match with the person I wanted to donate to?
  • What if the organ that I donate doesn’t work well? How would I deal with that?

Being prepared and fully educated about donation will help you make the decision whether to donate a portion of your liver or your kidney.

The Steps

If you want to be a donor for someone in need, your first step before deciding to is to learn everything you can about the process, surgery, and recovery. Our living donor toolkit will give you information about living donation and walk you through the decision process. The decision to be a living donor is a big one, and your decision to move forward should be carefully considered. Beyond the details about the evaluation and the surgery, you should carefully consider how organ donation will impact you, your family, your finances, your job and your relationship with the recipient.

Once you have decided to proceed, you can begin by contacting a transplant center for more information. At Mayo Clinic, we have a streamlined process in place to make it easy for potential donors to learn more about donation and get the process started. The general steps at Mayo Clinic for donation are:

  1. Fill out the Health History Questionnaire
  2. If chosen as a potential donor, bloodwork can be performed at your local facility
  3. If bloodwork is a match, your case is discussed at the donor selection meeting
  4. If you are chosen as a potential donor, evaluation is scheduled
  5. If evaluation is acceptable, surgery can be scheduled

Once you have been evaluated, sometimes you may be found to be a good candidate, but you aren’t a match to your intended recipient. In that case, your transplant center might offer paired donation. For paired donation, donors and their recipients are not compatible with each other. However, the donor of each pair is compatible to the recipient of the other pair. In essence, you can “trade” kidneys or portions of your liver with another donor so each recipient gets their best matching organ. Mayo Clinic also offers altruistic donation where potential donors can give a kidney or portion of their liver to someone they don’t know. You can learn more about these processes on our webpage.

The Impact

As a living donor, you could be providing life to a recipient who otherwise would be waiting, sometimes for months or years, for a deceased donor organ. By donating you are also keeping that recipient off the deceased donor waiting list, freeing up a deceased donor organ for someone else in need. Mayo Clinic is thankful for all our living and deceased donors and their families for making this decision for our patients.


Interested in more newsfeed posts like this? Go to the Transplant blog.

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