General Health

Donating a Kidney – Giving the Gift of Life

If someone that you loved needed blood and your blood type was a perfect match – you wouldn’t blink if asked to offer some of your own. The truth is that life and death situations are happening every day across the world and thousands of people are waiting for things much less common than blood. Kidneys for instance. At last count, it was estimated that around 80,000 people in the United States alone were waiting in the kidney transplant list for someone to donate a kidney – so they could have a second chance at life. Now consider for a moment that it is your child, husband, wife, sibling or parent that needs a kidney – would you donate yours as easily as you would your blood. Even more alarming is that there are tens of thousands of other people who are afflicted with life threatening kidney disorders that have not even been diagnosed. Raising awareness and learning how to become a kidney donor are two important steps that you can take, to possibly be a catalyst in saving someone else’s life (or your own)!

Obviously, there is a lot more involved in donating a kidney than there is donating blood. However, a recent research study out of the University of Minnesota concluded that people who do donate a kidney – live just as long as they would have otherwise. Apparently, donating a kidney – provided your other kidney works fine, has no long term affect on your health. Yet the impact that it has on the person receiving it is truly life or death.

Each year there are around 350,000 people who are at the tail end of kidney disease which means their life is anchored to a dialysis machine. And each year there are around 90,000 new cases of kidney disease diagnosed. The problem is that there are only around 13,000 donated kidneys each year, which means that the odds of getting one are slim. For the people waiting for the perfect donor, life can feel like a frustrating race against time. Many of these people waiting for a donated kidney are children with chronic kidney disease.

Essentially, there are two ways that someone can go about donating a kidney. The first is to become a living donor. A living kidney donor agrees to give away one of their own kidneys, because the human body only requires one to function properly. This is of course assuming that the donor is healthy. If you want to become a living kidney donor, you would have various tests perform and be required to take medications before donating the kidney. Post operatively, you would recover quickly and could expect to feel just like you did before the surgery.

Kidney donation is open to anyone between the ages of 18 and 50 that have no medical or psychological problems. Most often-living donors are family members of the person in need for the simple reason that the chance of ‘becoming a match’ is greater by remaining within family limits. In this case, donors get to decide exactly whom their kidney goes to. And should you want to help a stranger, you still could. Doctors would begin scouring databases to compare the genetics of waiting patients and you, in order to find a suitable person in need of a kidney who is on the organ donation waiting list. Tissue tests will be performed on you to lessen the chance that your donated kidney will be rejected by the host.

You can also donate a kidney by signing up to become a deceased donor. In some states, this is chosen at the same time that you renew your license. Additionally, family members after death can decide to allocate your healthy organs for donation. In this case, your organ is screened and scrutinized after your death so that they can quickly find a person in need that is waiting for a kidney. The United Network for Organ Sharing database has all pertinent information for every person in the United States waiting on an organ. The trick then is matching the organ up with a person in need in a timely manner, without compromising the health of the organ. There is also a donation known as heart beating donation, which is decided upon by family members when a person who is still alive, is considered clinically brain dead. The kidney extracted while the heart is beating is considered more viable than a non-heart beating kidney donation.

Considering deceased donation of a kidney, it becomes evident that choosing to become a donor after death is perhaps something each and every one of us should consider. Organ transplants in the last decade have become more and more successful and can literally be the difference between someone living or not. Even if you don’t want to be a living organ donor – choosing to allow someone to benefit from your body once you are gone, is a noble, commendable, and truly selfless thing to do. You never know, the person that you end up saving could be a family member – or someone else’s mom or dad.

Every day in the United States alone, around 17-20 die each day, waiting for a kidney donor. The best place for you to begin, should you be interested in donating a kidney is the National Kidney Foundation. You can reach them at www.kidney.org. There you can find out about all the events that they offer which help people get diagnosed with kidney disease and help match up donors and recipients so that patients afflicted with kidney disorders can continue to live a fulfilling life. Be sure to read some of the stories of individuals whose lives were saved by the kind act of strangers and families.

Each year in the United States, there are only around 14,000 kidney transplants performed each year. In Canada, those numbers waiver just below 2,000. When you consider how many people in the United States and Canada alone who are living day-to-day, waiting for an organ donor in order to live…donating a kidney seems like a no-brainer. Sure, it’s frightening. However, with so much research and case studies being analyzed and congruently coming to the conclusion that the risk to the donor is minimal at best, it is something that everyone should think about.

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