One of my closest friends is going through a tough time right now. Her mother is dying because of liver failure. My friend cries every day, as she sees pieces of the woman who raised her and kissed her boo-boos, slowly fading away. She can’t speak sometimes, she’s confused, and she can’t care for herself. She didn’t drink, and took great care of herself, so it’s not self-inflicted. It’s the result of a brain disorder. She’s been in and out of hospitals for the past month, sometimes in a comatose state. The worst part about all of this is that it can be fixed and she can go back to herself again…IF she gets a transplant. The problem is that the registry is so long, she would likely die before she comes up for a donor. And so she waits, hoping that one of her children will be a match.
People are afraid to become organ donors for several reasons. Here’s a Fact list from Donate Life America:
Fact: Anyone can be a potential donor regardless of age, race, or medical history.
Fact: All major religions in the United States support organ, eye and tissue donation and see it as the final act of love and generosity toward others.
Fact: If you are sick or injured and admitted to the hospital, the number one priority is to save your life. Organ, eye and tissue donation can only be considered after you are deceased.
Fact: When you are on the waiting list for an organ, what really counts is the severity of your illness, time spent waiting, blood type, and other important medical information, not your financial status or celebrity status.
Fact: An open casket funeral is possible for organ, eye and tissue donors. Through the entire donation process the body is treated with care, respect and dignity.
Fact: There is no cost to the donor or their family for organ or tissue donation.
You can also help by becoming a living donor.
Who can be a living donor?
While many people are willing to be living donors, not everyone has the qualities necessary to participate in living donation. Donors must be chosen carefully in order to avoid outcomes that are medically and psychologically unsatisfactory. While the individual circumstances of each potential donor are discussed privately and tested to determine compatibility, all potential donors must be genuinely willing to donate, physically fit, in good general health; and free from high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, kidney disease and heart disease. Individuals considered for living donation are usually between 18-60 years of age. Gender and race are not factors in determining a successful match.
Types of living donation
Although not all transplant centers perform all types, living donation has expanded to include many variations since the practice began in 1954, including:
• Related - Blood relatives of transplant candidates including brothers, sisters, parents, children (over 18 years of age), aunts, uncles, cousins, half brothers & sisters, nieces and nephews.
• Non-Related - Individuals emotionally close to, but not related by blood to transplant candidates, including spouses, in-law relatives, close friends, coworkers, neighbors or other acquaintances.
• Non-Directed - Individuals who are not related to or known by the recipient, but make their donation purely out of selfless motives. This type of donation is also referred to as anonymous, altruistic, altruistic stranger, and stranger-to-stranger living donation.
• Paired Donation - Consists of two kidney donor/recipient pairs whose blood types are not compatible. The two recipients trade donors so that each recipient can receive a kidney with a compatible blood type. Once the evaluations of all donors and recipients are completed, the two kidney transplant operations are scheduled to occur simultaneously.
• Kidney Donor Waiting List Exchange - If a paired exchange cannot be found, living donors in certain areas of the country may be eligible for living kidney donor list exchange. In this type of exchange, a kidney donor who is not compatible with their intended recipient offers to donate to a stranger on the waiting list. In return, the intended recipient advances on the waiting list for a deceased donor kidney. This type of living donation is also referred to as list-paired exchange and living donor/deceased exchange.
• Blood Type Incompatible - This type of donation allows candidates to receive a kidney from a living donor who has an incompatible blood type. To prevent immediate rejection of the kidney, recipients undergo plasmapheresis treatments before and after the transplant to remove harmful antibodies from the blood, as well as the removal of the spleen at the time of transplant.
• Positive Crossmatch - The positive crossmatch process is similar to the process used for ABO-incompatible living-donor kidney transplants, where patients can receive kidneys from living donors with blood types incompatible with their own. Similarly, treating patients with plasmapheresis also greatly reduces the chance of organ rejection in patients with elevated antibody levels. Previously, these elevated antibody levels made tissue rejection almost certain. Positive crossmatch live donor kidney transplants are usually only performed if no other live donors (with a negative crossmatch) exist.
Risks and recovery
Although transplantation is highly successful, complications for the donor and recipient can arise.
However, living donation does not change life expectancy, and after recovery from the surgery, most donors go on to live happy, healthy and normal lives. For living kidney donors, the remaining kidney will enlarge slightly to do the work that two healthy kidneys share. The liver has the ability to regenerate and regain full function. Lungs and pancreas do not regenerate, but donors usually have no problems with reduced function. The usual recovery time after the surgery is short, and donors can generally resume their normal home and working lives within two to six weeks. Be sure to talk to your doctor about what to expect.