Living Kidney Donor Overview

Striving for excellence in the care of living donors and their recipients

The Renal and Pancreas Transplant Division at Saint Barnabas Medical Center would like to thank you for your interest in becoming a living kidney donor. Our primary goal is to look after your health, safety, and interests throughout the kidney donation process.

The first step is for you to complete our online health history questionnaire. Before you begin, please obtain your accurate weight/height. You will need this information to proceed. Please complete this questionnaire from a laptop or desktop. The information you provide is critical and requires your full attention.

Begin Our Living Donor Referral Process

Your decision to donate your kidney to a loved one or person in need should be considered a life-enhancing “gift” based on a desire to dramatically improve the quality of that person’s life.

The desire to donate your kidney should be purely of your own free will and should be free from undue pressure or monetary compensation. You will meet privately with a registered nurse, social worker, physician, and living donor advocate who will each discuss this decision with you. Your participation is completely voluntary and you are free to withdraw your decision to donate at any time. The transplant team will help you to discontinue the donor evaluation in a way that is protected and confidential.

Frequently Asked Questions

What other options does my intended recipient have?

You should not think of this decision as a matter of life and death, because persons with kidney failure have other alternatives, including dialysis and waiting for a deceased donor organ. You should also know that it is possible that a deceased donor organ could become available to your potential recipient during the evaluation process or before the living donor transplant occurs.

What are the benefits of living donation for my intended recipient?

Recipients usually experience an enhanced quality of life immediately after receiving a live donor transplant. A live donor transplant lasts about twice as long, on average, as a deceased donor kidney. A live donor transplant also indirectly makes a deceased donor kidney available for someone else awaiting transplant who has no living donor available to them.

What are my benefits as a living donor?

Generally, a willing donor receives tremendous emotional benefit by fulfilling their wish to donate. There is no medical benefit to you having this surgery. However, a possible medical benefit of the evaluation is finding out about health problems that you did not know that you have. Discovering these health problems may allow you to seek treatment.

What are the options for Living Donation?

  • Living-Related Donor Transplantation: Living donors who have a genetic relationship with the recipient are called living-related donors. Donor/recipient pairs that share a close genetic relationship tend to have improved compatibility upon testing. Identifying a donor who has a strong genetic relationship with the recipient can lessen the chance of rejection of the new kidney.
  • Emotionally-Related Donor Transplantation: If immediate family members are unable to donate, kidneys for transplant can also come from living unrelated or emotionally-related donors Some examples of common emotionally-related donors are a spouse or close friend.
  • Altruistic Living Donation: The two types of altruistic living donors are directed altruistic donors and non-directed altruistic donors.
    The directed altruistic donor is a person who has some knowledge of the recipient, such as through church, synagogue, or mutual acquaintance. The directed altruistic donor is thus directing their donated kidney to this recipient.
    The non-directed altruistic donor is a person who wishes to donate to a person they do not know, either through donation to a recipient on the waiting list or through a kidney paired donation.
    While all donors are considered “altruistic” by nature of their gift of life, the two types of donors described above have no genetic or emotional relationship with their recipient. Their evaluation typically requires a slower pace that allows them more time to reflect upon their decision to donate.

What are the options if I am not compatible with my intended recipient?

  • Kidney Paired Donation: Many individuals have willing kidney donors that are incompatible by blood type or cross matching. This program involves the matching and exchange of kidneys between donor/recipient pairs that are incompatible with each other.
  • Program for Incompatible Transplants: Many patients have living kidney donors who are not a match to them either because of blood type or because of immunological factors. These donors may be otherwise able and willing to donate. Depending on the type and degree of incompatibility, this program offers some potential recipients the option to receive a living donor kidney from their incompatible donor. kidney
  • Compatible Share Program: In this program, a compatible donor/recipient pair may be offered the opportunity to participate in a kidney paired donation. A compatible donor and recipient may choose this option because it provides the following:
    • A chance to improve the recipient’s long term outcome, i.e., younger donor kidney, improved
    • compatibility.
    • An altruistic opportunity for the compatible pair because their participation in a kidney
    • exchange would allow one or more incompatible recipient/donor pairs the opportunity to be transplanted.

How is my eligibility to be a donor decided by the transplant team?

The potential donor undergoes a thorough medical and psychosocial evaluation. The evaluation process is designed to determine if you are eligible to be a donor. If a health problem is found during the evaluation process you will be referred to your own physician for further evaluation and/or treatment. If a serious health problem is found it is possible that you may not be able to donate. The medical evaluation of a living donor ensures that you have good kidney function and no major risk factors for future kidney disease. However, if you are young, this medical evaluation cannot perfectly predict whether you will develop kidney disease in the distant future. People who develop chronic kidney disease usually develop kidney problems in mid-life (after age 40 or 50) or later in life (after age 60).

After careful evaluation, the transplant team makes a decision regarding your suitability for donation following established selection criteria based on your current medical and psychosocial status as well as the results of required testing.

Who pays for the cost of my donor evaluation and surgery?

The evaluation and hospitalization costs for living donation are covered by the recipient’s insurance. Your insurance will not be billed directly. During your evaluation, only tests ordered by the transplant team for the purposes of determining your suitability for donation will be covered. If tests are performed for the purposes of routine medical care, treatment or are not ordered by the transplant team, you or your insurance company will be billed.

Are there donor expenses that are not covered?

The recipient’s insurance generally does not reimburse the donor for personal expenses related to donation. Donors may receive assistance to pay for donation costs from the recipient. Allowed costs for the donor and up to two donor caregivers include (but not limited to) travel, housing, lost wages, childcare, food, and medicine. Grants are available for those recipient/donor pairs that financially qualify. The social worker can provide you with more information.

What is the follow-up care for Living Donors?

The long term health of living donors is an important focus of the Living Donor Institute.

After donation, all live donors are required follow up as outlined here. Under the requirements of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the Transplant Center will coordinate and follow your progress at three pre-determined intervals after donation: six months, one year, and two years. You will also be strongly encouraged to follow up with your primary care provider every year.

Is my information confidential?

All communication between donors and RWJBarnabas Health are confidential. Likewise, communication between the recipient and Barnabas Health are confidential. This means that your recipient may have risk-factors for increased morbidity and mortality that are not disclosed to you. All reasonable precautions will be taken to provide confidentiality for the donor and recipient.




Patient Stories

  • “It’s a wonderful thing. I have so much more energy now, and I have so much more time to myself."

    Timothy
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  • “If I can get a message to anyone needing a kidney, I would tell them make sure you go to the Transplant Center that is the best. I would tell them to go to Saint Barnabas!”

    Rosemarie
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