There are currently over 120,000 Americans on the national waiting list to receive a transplant, and someone is added to the list every 10 minutes. That has created a shortage of available organs that contributes to the death of 22 people a day. By donating an organ, you can help shrink the gap between the number of organs available and the number of people who need them, reducing wait times from years to months and offering hope and a second chance at life to recipients.
Who can be a living donor?
Anyone who is over the age of 18 or, in some cases, younger can sign up to be a donor. Most living donors are between the ages of 18 and 60.
Are there any conditions that would prevent me from being a donor?
High blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, HIV, cancer, and heart disease could keep you from becoming a donor. So it is important to let the professionals and advocates helping you through the process and especially those conducting the medical evaluations know if you have any of these conditions.
Is there any cost to being a donor?
No. Cost associated with donation including evaluation, procedure, and post-operative care are covered by the donor’s insurance. The only costs incurred by donors are non-medical expenses, such as travel and lodging or lost wages.
Are there any age limits for being a donor?
No, although most living donors are between the ages of 18 and 60.
How are transplants arranged?
The first step is to contact The Living Bank. We’ll ask you a few brief questions, then direct you to a transplant center to provide additional details about your medical history and to assess your ability to manage any emotional or psychological effects of the procedure. Next comes a blood test to ensure that you’re compatible with the potential recipient. If the evaluations and blood tests produce positive results, preparations for the transplant will begin.
Once I am cleared, how long does it take to get the transplant procedure?
That decision is generally made by you, the recipient, and the transplant team. But the doctors caring for the recipient will try to provide an estimated time for the procedure based on their patient’s condition.
What are the risks?
As is the case with any surgery, there are risks related to the procedure, including allergic reactions to anesthesia, bleeding, discomfort, pneumonia, blood clots, and damage to surrounding conditions. However, the risks are considered to be extremely low, although they can vary depending on the donor and the organ donated. For example, kidney donors may develop infections or bleeding, while liver donors risk injury to the organ itself.
What is the recovery time after I donate?
Recovery times can vary among living donors. Generally speaking, however, kidney donors can expect to stay in the hospital for anywhere from three days to a week after surgery, and resume their usual activities within four to six weeks. For liver donors, the expected hospitalization time is a week or sometimes longer, and they can get back to work and normal activities in two months.
What can I expect after the procedure?
There will likely be some initial discomfort, and some donors have experienced exhaustion and small increases in blood pressure. You will also have post-operative lab tests and office visits, and undergo followup procedures as directed and determined by transplant staff.
What will the effect be on my body?
Probably the biggest visible effect will be scarring from the surgery. In rare cases, kidney donors have experienced nerve damage, intestinal blockage, and hernias.
Does donating an organ have any effect on my life expectancy?
No. Studies have shown that donors live just as long as non-donors.
What advice can you give me about whether to be a donor?
Our best advice is to do your homework first. Learn everything you can about the pros and cons of living donation, either by reading available information or contacting an advocate like The Living Bank; we can direct you to a range of resources. If you know someone who has been a donor, talk to them. But perhaps as important as anything else, discuss it with your loved ones. Living organ donation is a highly personal decision, and it is important that the donor have the full support of his or her family before moving forward.
Who can I call for more information or to donate an organ?
Contact us at The Living Bank. We can answer any questions about donation, and put you in touch with healthcare professionals whose medical specialties include transplants.