Want to learn more about what it means to be a donor? You’ve hit the right place!
Considering to be a kidney donor is no small decision. There is so much to think about and it’s not a fast process. BUT the reward is more than you can imagine. Let’s talk through the process.
Getting tested is fairly easy. If you’ve identified a person that you would like to see if you’re a match to donate to, you can go to their transplant center’s website or in-person clinic and fill out the donor form. Now, each center has different (sometime significantly) requirements/standards that they use to determine if you would be eligible to donate. After asking some questions about your health, family history and reason for donating, they’ll then ask you to take either a blood test or oral swab to determine if you’re a match or not.
What if I’m not a match? There is still an opportunity for your to help! Paired Exchange allows you to donate to someone you match with while your intended recipient will then receive a kidney from someone else. This concept doesn’t resonate with everyone. But, you can maximize your impact with Paired Exchange. We’re happy to talk with you one on one about this.
I’m a match! Double-High-Fives! Now it starts to settle in that this might happen. This is where the emotional rollercoaster starts to kick in. It’s likely that you’ll have tons of questions that start to flood your mind…and these thoughts and questions will happen a lot. It’s a really big thing that you’re thinking about doing. It has some pretty big ramifications, not just for you, but your family, friends, and the recipient. It’s gonna keep you up at night. And it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Don’t kid yourself, it’s major surgery. It’s not fun. It’s scary. You will be in pain. You’re going to miss some work. But it’s totally worth it.
This is also where the process tends to slow down a bit. You have to schedule a slew of medical tests to ensure that YOU are healthy enough to donate. While you might say, “Take my kidney regardless of the potential threat to my own life!” (especially if you want to donate to a child or family member), most centers won’t let you donate if they don’t think it’s completely safe for you to do so. Then, just when you think you’ve got it all completed, they might ask for some additional tests. Try not to get frustrated. Understand that it’s all in the name of your health and safety. The timeline might change too. Try to go with the flow. It will happen when it’s supported to happen.
Once all of the test results have come back and all the evaluations have been done, you still have to wait 😉 Most transplant centers have a committee that will review your information and your recipient’s information to determine if you can go through with the donation. It can be a really anxious day. It can be stressful waiting to hear back. The decision by the committee could change your life. Know that if you don’t get approved, it’s not necessarily the end. Many times, they want to see if you can make a small change–such as lose some weight–in order to become eligible to donate. They may also tell you that you’re a partial match and they’d rather wait to see if a better match becomes available. Don’t be discouraged. Yes, you’ve done a lot and have yet to receive anything for all of this effort, but it still might happen. Every decision they are making is with your health in mind!
Now you’re approved! Time to schedule the surgery. Things to consider when looking at the calendar. You’re going to be out of work for about a week if you have the ability to work from home. If you can’t, you’re going to be out for about 2 weeks. You won’t be able to drive for at least a week. Also, you’re going to be super tired with small tasks that you wouldn’t think twice about before surgery. You’re going to need a lot of help in the first few days. Make sure you have someone who can also take time off to help. Many transplant centers won’t do “elective” surgery on a holiday. Bottom line, make sure you can coordinate help and work as best you can.
Now, as it will be explained to you several times over, you are about to undergo major surgery. While rare, things can happen. This is a great time to get and update your legal documents. Having a medical power of attorney, living will and general will is a smart way to protect yourself and your family should the unthinkable happen. Don’t ignore this aspect of the donation process.
What are you going to need to get before surgery? A pro tip is to get a wedge pillow. You’ll have some pain/discomfort as you transition from standing to sitting to laying down. Remember, you use your core way more than you think you do for little tasks that you take for granted. If you have a recliner, you might want to try sleeping in it for the first couple of nights. The wedge pillow will also help when you are sitting in a chair or on a couch, not just sleeping with it.
The big one, specifically for you fit workout people, is that you won’t be able to lift more than 10 pounds for 2-3 months. This is a big deal because they are trying to prevent a hernia after surgery. I highly suggest paying attention to all of the everyday activities you do that you engage your core for. It’s far more than you think.