Five myths about living kidney donation debunked

picture of hands holding kidney-shaped papers

More than 100,000 people need an organ in the United States. Of those patients, almost 90,000 are waiting to receive a kidney. We can all check that box on our license to donate an organ if something happens to us, but did you know you could save a life now?

Living donors can lead healthy, long lives and save others. Kidneys from living donors are superior in almost every way. There are fewer complications, the kidney begins to work sooner, and it allows flexibility in planning surgeries.

Michael Daily, MD, Section Chief of Solid Organ Transplantation at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC), debunks common myths about being a living kidney donor.

What if I’m not related to the recipient, or I don’t have the same blood type?

You don’t need to be related to a recipient. Matching for kidney transplants is similar to matching blood types for blood donations. Blood group O is the universal donor; blood group AB is the universal recipient. You simply need a compatible blood type, and sometimes, we can even work around that.

What if I’m not a match for the recipient?

If you aren’t a match for one recipient, you can still help. At DHMC, we are part of the Alliance for Paired Kidney Donation and the National Kidney Registry. When you donate a kidney to any eligible recipient who can’t find a match, you can start a donation chain that extends the chance for unmatched donors to help unmatched recipients. One kidney can create a chain of donations well into the double digits, and it all starts with one incompatible donor.

Am I too old to donate?

That’s often not the case. Kidney transplants from living donors in their late 50s last as long as some of the best kidneys from deceased-donor kidneys do.

Am I paid for kidney donations?

No. You cannot receive payment for donating a kidney. There are programs available to assist with the financial needs of donors, such as reimbursement for travel or lost wages.

Will having only one kidney affect my daily life?

Donors actually tend to live longer than the general population. That’s not because they have one kidney—it’s because they have to be quite healthy to donate. The remaining kidney actually gets stronger and more efficient—for the donor and the recipient. Maureen Murphy could even hike Mt. Kilimanjaro less than a year after donating!

So how can you become a living kidney donor?

The ideal candidate is motivated and healthy. The evaluation process is strict because we need to ensure that the donor has two normal kidneys with great function and that they aren’t at risk for developing a disease or condition that could affect kidney function.

The power you have to help someone with your donation is extraordinary. Visit the Transplant Surgery web page. Fill out our survey, and a coordinator will notify you if you are eligible.

Watch this message from Michael Daily, MD

Visit Transplantation Surgery for more information.