How do family and friends know when it is time to consider donation?
When a patient loses 90 to 95 percent of his or her kidney function, they are considered to have End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). At this point, life-saving treatment becomes necessary. Treatment options for patients with ESRD are dialysis (where an artificial kidney machine removes waste from the blood) or a kidney transplant from a living or deceased donor.
Sometimes, a patient with 85 percent loss of kidney function will undergo a transplant which allows them to avoid having to go on dialysis. Kidney patients and their families will discuss the best course of treatment with their doctors.
Who can be a donor?
Donors need to be between the ages of 18 and early 70s and can include parents, children, siblings, other relatives, and friends. An ideal donor should have a genuine interest in donating and a compatible blood type with the recipient.
Donors should be in good general health. Donors do not need to be genetically related. Typically, someone who has cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, liver disease, sickle-cell disease, HIV or hepatitis will not qualify to be a donor. However, these diseases are not all absolute contradictions to donation. Every donor will be considered on an individual basis.
Do some donors have trouble making the decision to donate?
The decision to donate can vary from person to person. Some people make the decision instantly with few worries or concerns. Other people require time to think critically and will talk with close friends or family before deciding whether or not to donate. It is normal for some people to be afraid of donating a kidney as well as to experience guilt about not wanting to be a donor.
Individuals should not, under any circumstances, feel pressured to donate. The only “right” decision is the one that makes the donor feel comfortable. Potential donors are encouraged to speak with the living donor team if they have any questions or concerns about their decision.
What is the first step to becoming a living donor?
If you are interested in being a living donor, you should contact the Sharon Kreitzer, MSW and SR Outreach Liasion for the Living Donor Kidney Program at Mt. Sinai Hospital (NYC), at (212) 659-8027 (office) to request a questionnaire. Once the questionnaire has been completed it will be reviewed by a nurse coordinator to determine if you may proceed with initial blood testing.
Once your blood type, antigen match, and cross match are known, the living donor nurse coordinator will discuss the results and the donation process with you and answer any questions so that you can make an informed decision about proceeding with donation. This conversation is strictly confidential and is not shared with the recipient. If the donor decides to continue with donation, they must then complete a comprehensive evaluation.
For more information review Mount Sinai’s Living Kidney Donor booklet.