What do your kidneys do?
Live kidney donation is when you give one of your healthy kidneys to a person whose kidneys don’t work. People whose kidneys don’t work need dialysis or a kidney transplant to stay alive.
If dialysis is done well, it can be very effective in treating kidney disease. However, a live kidney transplant will give the recipient a much more independent, active and usually longer life.
About 10 out of 20 live kidney transplants are still working well after 15 years.
Without a kidney transplant, people on average only live for 4 to 5 years after they start dialysis, although some people can live for much longer.
To donate a kidney, you need to be:
- over 18 years old
- in good health with two healthy kidneys.
You can’t donate a kidney if you have a medical condition like diabetes, cancer or poorly controlled blood pressure, are very overweight or have serious mental health problems.
Who can you donate to?
You can donate a kidney to a member of your family, a friend or, if you agree, your kidney will be used in the Kidney Exchange programme.
Donating to someone you know, like a family member or a friend, is called ‘directed’ donation.
This is because you ‘direct’ that your kidney goes to a particular recipient.
Donating to someone you don’t know is called ‘non-directed’ donation.
In this case, you cannot say who receives your kidney. The kidney is given to the highest placed person on the kidney transplant waiting list.
How safe is donating a kidney?
Most people have two kidneys but can lead a normal life with just one.
Kidneys will only be accepted from donors who have passed several very thorough medical tests. There can still be a small risk that the donor could have problems after they donate their kidney.
If you pass all the tests, you can donate one of your kidneys to another person.
When you have your operation, the surgeon will leave your best kidney in you. Your other kidney will be transplanted into your recipient.
Most donors do not have any change in their health after donating a kidney.
- About 3 in 1000 donors will go on to develop end-stage kidney disease. This is considered to be low risk.
- About 2 in 1000 people who do not donate a kidney will develop end-stage kidney disease. This is also considered low risk.
- For comparison, about
- 50 in 1000 New Zealanders will develop bowel cancer at some point in their lives. These are considered to be high risk.
- 100 in 1000 New Zealand women will develop breast cancer. These are considered to be high risk.
If you want to donate your kidney to someone you know, talk to that person. Sometimes you might need a family meeting to talk about it. Keep on talking to them and offering to donate a kidney even if the recipient is on dialysis and seems to be doing okay, and even if at first, they say no.
New Zealand research shows that some recipients later regretted that they said no to someone who offered them a kidney. The person didn’t offer again, and the recipient didn’t know how to talk about donation with them again.
If you decide you want to be a kidney donor, you will need to get in touch with the renal (kidney) transplant co-ordinator at the nearest hospital that has a renal (kidney) specialist service.
The transplant co-ordinator is usually a nurse, and their job is to help potential donors like you go through the kidney donation process. They can answer your questions.
To find your local transplant co-ordinator, visit: https://kidneydonor.org.nz/contact
To find out more visit https://kidneydonor.org.nz/