The number of people waiting for a kidney transplant to help save their lives is far greater than the number of kidneys available. We all know that we can opt to donate our organs after our death, but you don’t have to be deceased to help save a life. You can donate a kidney while alive and become a living kidney donor.
We are all born with two kidneys, but our body can function well even with one kidney. Once a kidney is removed, the remaining kidney will take up the job of removing the waste and maintaining our metabolism on its own and manage well. So, if you have two healthy kidneys, then you can donate one to save someone’s life and both, you and the person who received your kidney, can survive on one kidney each.
Indeed, deciding to become a kidney donor is not an easy decision to make. You will have many questions and it’s perfectly okay to have qualms about taking such a big decision. The best way to come to a decision is to find out as much information as you can about becoming a living kidney donor. Ask questions, learn about the benefits and risks involved, discuss it with your doctor and your family and then take an informed decision.
If you have decided to become a living donor, then the next step for you will be to find out if you are eligible to become a donor. Not everyone can become a living donor – there are certain criterions that need to be fulfilled and you should be emotionally ready to accept the results of the tests, should they not be in your favour.
The requirements of becoming a living donor are:
- You need to be in good physical and mental health
- Both your kidneys should be healthy
- You need to be above 18 years and less than 65 years old
- You need to be free of the following diseases: diabetes, cancer, hepatitis, high blood pressure, any infectious disease and any organ failure/disease
- Preferably a non-smoker
Some of the tests you will need to go through to ensure you are healthy enough to donate a kidney.
- Blood tests
- Urine Tests
- Pap smears
- Antibody tests
- CT Scans
- Psychological evaluation
- Screening tests for cancers
Kidney donation can be a life-changing decision. Even though you will continue to live a healthy life after the donation, yet, you might feel a range of emotions after the surgery and, in some cases, there could also be side-effects of the surgery. As such, before you decide to become a donor, ask yourself these five questions:
- Am I intellectually ready?
- Am I emotionally ready?
- Am I physically ready?
- Am I financially ready?
- Am I spiritually ready?
Your decision depends on how you answer these questions. You may need to consult with your doctor and your family to get some these answers, but in the end, organ donation is a completely voluntary process and one should not feel pressurized to donate.
Common questions living donors-to-be ask:
No – you can donate to a stranger as well, if you are compatible with them. This type of donation is referred to as altruistic or non-directed living kidney donation.
If you are in poor health or suffer from chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer, HIV etc., then you cannot become a donor. You need to be of sound physical health. You also need to be in good mental health to become a living donor.
Kidney donation is a major surgery, and as with any surgery, there are certain risks involved. Negative reactions to the anaesthesia, blood loss, blood clots, infections, injury to surrounding tissues etc. are some of the risks involved with this surgery.
In almost all cases, donors do not suffer from any long-term health issues. However, in some cases, donors may experience high-blood pressure, kidney issues and diabetes, if they belong to a high-risk group. Some donors may also experience pain, hernia, or increased protein level in the urine.
You will not have to stay as long as the recipient in the hospital. The average stay is 3-7 days, of which one day is for the surgery. After being discharged, the donor will need about 4-7 weeks for complete recovery. During this time, you should take good care of your health and not undertake any strenuous activities.
You will be required to take this assessment, so that the hospital can be sure you are of sound mental health and can understand the process. This will also be an opportunity for them to find out if you are being pressurized to become a donor and if you are aware of what to expect, from becoming a donor. If you have any doubts about becoming a donor, this would be the best time to discuss them.
Certain changes will be required to ensure you live a healthy life after your surgery for years to come. You will need to exercise regularly and eat a healthy, nutritious diet. You should also cut down on your intake of alcohol or completely stop it and quit smoking, if you did so before your surgery (you will need to quit smoking before your surgery for a considerable period of time, before you can donate – would be a good idea to continue the habit of no smoking after the surgery as well). You will also need to stay hydrated, so your water and fluid intake should increase.
Apart from these you can continue to walk, drive, travel, get pregnant and continue with your life exactly as before.
Becoming a kidney donor can be as challenging as it can be rewarding. You will have a lot of questions about the process and several doubts as well. Ensure that you get all your questions answered satisfactorily and every doubt removed, before you take the decision. If required, you can also request to talk to other kidney donors and learn from their experience.