Living Donation Facts and Figures: Donors Can Save and Impact Many

Nearly 95,000 people are currently in need of a kidney transplant. That's about two cities the size of Grand Island, Nebraska, put together representing the number of people waiting for the lifesaving procedure. 

The answer, perhaps surprisingly, could be a donation from a living donor. One of the most visible stories of living donation comes from American singer Selena Gomez, who received a donated kidney from her friend Francia Raisa in 2017. 

Francia was one of 6,192 living donors that year and attributes her close bond with Selena to the procedure that saved her friend's life. 

Living donation occurs when a healthy individual over the age of 19 decides to donate one of their functioning organs. For kidney transplants, these donations go to someone undergoing dialysis or someone with end-stage renal disease. 

These procedures are incredibly beneficial for recipients. Studies have shown that donations from a living donor have a higher transplant success rate than those who receive from a deceased donor. 

The process to sign up and become a living donor does, however, take time and several medical evaluations to identify if the parties are a match and to ensure both understand the risks and benefits of the procedure. These tests include: 

  • A full medical evaluation
  • A review of the donor's medical history
  • Blood compatibility tests
  • Other blood and urine tests
  • Meetings with medical professionals
  • A psychological evaluation 

But what happens if those tests determine the donor and recipient aren't compatible? 

The possibility to donate still exists. In this case, the donors can become paired with other living donors and recipients who did not match. These pairs will do an exchange so that each candidate receives a kidney or other organ from a donor on the same day. 

Donation can also occur anonymously. 

These acts of kindness begin a ripple effect that never ends, if you ask Tim Nowak. 

Nowak is a living kidney donor from Ogallala, Nebraska, who began a chain in 2017 to ultimately save more than three people, including his friend from church, Amanda Canning. 

Tim had originally wanted to donate to his wife, Judy, who needed a kidney transplant, but he was unable to do so because they were not a match. 

After Judy eventually did receive a kidney and Tim saw her recovery and transformation, he knew he wanted to give others that same opportunity and began the chain and process to donate to Amanda. 

“This entire journey has been a blessing," Tim said in a Nebraska Medicine story. "If it weren’t for Judy’s transplant, none of this would have happened. I’m just happy we were able to pay it forward.”

Other organs in addition to one kidney a living donor can donate include a segment of the liver, a lobe of the lung, a portion of the pancreas, and a portion of the intestine. 

Those interested in participating in living donation can begin the process by contacting a transplant center such as Nebraska Medicine. 

Posted: July 30, 2018

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