Deciding to Become a Living Kidney Donor
There are two options to treat end stage renal disease (ESRD): dialysis or a kidney transplant. If a person with late-stage CKD or with ESRD decides to pursue a kidney transplant and qualifies, he or she can go on a waiting list to receive a kidney from a deceased donor, or ask friends and family if they are willing to donate a kidney as a living donor.
The first requirement for a kidney donor is good health. You must have normal kidney function and anatomy. You must also be willing to go through several medical, financial and psychiatric evaluations. Here is a list of what you may need to do if you want to donate a kidney:
1. Medical exams
Several tests must be done to ensure that your kidney is in good condition for donation and that it would not negatively affect your health post-surgery. These tests may include:
- Complete physical exam
- Immunological and laboratory tests
- Chest X-ray
- Medical history assessment
- Kidney function tests and helical CTA scan of the kidneys
- Intravenous pyelography test: Dye is injected into a vein in the arm. The dye reaches the kidneys via the bloodstream where it is taken up and passed into the urine. X-rays are taken to identify the structure of the kidney, ureters and the bladder.
- Renal arteriogram
- Gynecological exam and mammography for potential female kidney donors
Test results will be evaluated by the kidney transplant team. The team is composed of nephrologists, surgeons, nurses, social workers and financial counselors who will determine if the potential kidney donor is a good match.
2. Psychiatric evaluation
This evaluation typically includes an impartial, private forum for you to discuss important information about the donation process and assess your motivation for wanting to donate a kidney. The health care team will also work with you to either proceed with donating or declining to do so.
3. Financial consultation
Like any significant medical procedure, cost and insurance coverage need to be considered. In many cases the kidney recipient’s insurance will pay for testing and surgery. However, the donor may incur additional expenses. It’s important to discuss the details with the hospital’s transplant coordinator, your job’s human resource department and your insurance plan.
The emotional factor of kidney donation
Kidney donors may have a wide range of emotions, including joy, relief, anxiety or a sense of loss throughout the process. Even if you are elated at the thought of giving the gift of life, as a potential kidney donor you should have a support system throughout the process. Family, friends, spiritual guidance, organized support groups and mental health counseling can be helpful.
Giving life to a person in need
Giving life by becoming a kidney donor can be very rewarding. You are providing a person the chance to live without the help of dialysis. If you are thinking about changing a person’s life by becoming a donor, it’s important to gather all the facts and establish a support network. You can find more information at OrganDonor.gov. If you decide to become a donor and would like to get support online, join myDaVita where you may find others in your same situation.
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