You have heard the stories: the Starbucks barista who donates one of her two healthy kidneys to a customer who might die without a kidney transplant. The woman from Phoenix featured on the Today show who found a kidney donor for her mom through setting up a Facebook page. It happens. And it makes news. What’s going on?
First, with an epidemic of people with diabetes and high blood pressure, kidneys are failing. Most all of us were born with two kidneys, but we only need one to live a healthy life. When both kidneys are failing many people can only look forward to a safety net of dialysis – many hours a week – and a reduced quality of life, many medications, and the real prospect of a shorter life. A transplant can be a much better course if there is a healthy organ available.
Traditionally, donated organs came from someone who died. It could be a young person who died in an accident. In more recent years doctor have been accepting kidneys from older people who died. A shortage still remains because the vast majority of us have not agreed to be organ donors. And even if we said yes and it was noted on our driver’s license (many states do that), our families, in times of sorrow, sometimes do not abide by our wishes. If we are dying and the transplant team is standing by to give the “gift of life” to others, someone in the family – and this happens every day – says no. Game over.
This is where a kidney donated from someone who is alive can make such a difference. The latest techniques make this safe for the donor and a life changing event for the recipient. You could say it’s life changing for the donor too – giving this gift to a relative or friend or even a stranger.
Recently I attended a major medical conference in Philadelphia for organ transplant professionals. I learned more about this during video interviews with two experts for PatientPower.info. One, a surgeon, explained the living donor kidney transplant process. Another explained how recipients can help make the transplant successful and lasting. You can find these at http://www.patientpower.info/video/advantages-of-living-donor-kidney-transplants