Are you healthy enough to donate your kidney?
- How would you know if you are healthy enough or not?
- How would you start the process?
- Where would you go?
If you have these questions, you are now in Living Kidney Donor Stage 4!
Stage 4 Start Workup
You are ready to take the next step.
But you may not want to tell anyone that you are considering living kidney donation because you are not sure yourself.
That is okay. But how can you find out your health status in the comfort and privacy of your home? No commitment. No medical people. No clinics. No hospitals.
Before discussing how to start the health screening, let’s talk about a common issue of concern.
Does it matter if you know who you want to donate to before you start the workup?
Many potential donors have a very specific person they want to donate their kidney to. This is called Directed Donation. It might be a family member or close friend.
Some people don’t consider donating because they don’t personally know anyone that needs a kidney. This could be because those who need a kidney find it very difficult to discuss their illness with others. They don’t want to ask or feel like they are pressuring anyone to donate. Often they don’t understand the living kidney donation process enough themselves to talk about it. Many don’t know the benefits of a living kidney transplant over getting a kidney from someone who has died. The waiting time for a living kidney transplant can be shorter and the kidney lasts about twice as long as a deceased donor.
You don’t have to know anyone that needs a kidney.
Some people start the workup and later discover a person to give their kidney to, or choose to give it to a stranger. If you want to donate your kidney, but don’t care who it goes to, that is called Non-Directed Donation. You might also hear the term Good Samaritan or Altruistic Donor.
So, what is the first tiny step to start the workup?
Here are some options:
- There are free health screening questionnaires online that you can take. Kidney Donor Conversations has a link on their home page. Go to www.MyKDC.org. The link will take you to the National Kidney Registry health questions. You can start here regardless of who you want to donate to or what transplant center you might want to go to. This helps get the process started.
- Most transplant centers also have a link to health questions on their website. You can search for the transplant center with a good reputation, one close to where you live, or the one where your intended recipient is going, depending on your personal values and situation.
Remember, you do not have to know who you are donating to at this point in time. Your goal is to find out if you are healthy enough to proceed.
Once you complete the initial health-related questions and “pass” this first screening, you have an option to go on if you would like to. You can be sent supplies to obtain urine and blood samples at a local lab. The blood work can reflect the general physical health of your body and organs. If these are in normal ranges, you may proceed to the next step.
A thorough in-person workup will need to be done through a transplant center.
Now is the time to consider some important questions.
Your answers will help determine the transplant center that you will go to for the rest of the donor testing and possible surgery.
- Is there someone specific you want to donate your kidney to?
- Is there a state, city, or hospital that you prefer?
- Do you want a large center or a small center?
- Are you able or willing to travel?
- Is the center near family or friends that may be able to help you with recovery?
- What type of donor benefits are available at the center that may be important for you?
- What is the reputation and success rate of transplants and donor surgeries?
These websites may be helpful:
As you answer the above questions, you will be able to move into Stage 5!
Stage 4 typically takes little time (days or weeks).
Want to learn more?
Future posts of the “Living Kidney Donor Conversations: Breaking the Silence” series will provide you with general guidelines of what the journey looks like, even though every individual situation is unique. Get ready for more of this living kidney donor adventure! Stage 5 is next.
All the posts in the Living Kidney Donor Conversations: Breaking the Silence series can be found here:
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Glenna Frey, APRN-CNS, is a nephrology nurse who donated her kidney in April 2017 to a stranger.
Amanda Frey, M.A., LMFT, LPC, is a Marriage & Family Therapist living with kidney disease.
Together, they co-founded Kidney Donor Conversations in 2018 to provide education about Living Kidney Donation.