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5 common misconceptions about donating a kidney

Living organ donation could save the lives of more than 4,000 Georgians currently waiting for a kidney transplant. Unfortunately, the number of transplants performed is constrained by the limited number of people willing and able to donate a kidney.

To raise awareness of this issue, Megan Parker, RN, BSN, a nurse at Piedmont Transplant Institute, debunks five myths about living kidney donation.

1)   Myth: I won’t be able to maintain my active lifestyle after donating a kidney.

“This is false,” says Parker. “Most living donors go home within 24 to 48 hours after surgery and report feeling back to normal by the second week. However, it is recommended that living donors don’t do any heavy lifting for six weeks. After that time, many resume their normal exercise routine and activity.”

2)   Myth: While I’d like to donate a kidney, the cost of all the required medical care is too high. 

False. The kidney recipient’s insurance covers preliminary testing, surgery and more.

3)   Myth: I’m not a match. Therefore, there is nothing I can do to help my loved one get a transplant.

False. “If you’re not a match for a loved one, you can participate in a paired exchange,” says Parker. “This allows you to donate a kidney to someone else who has a living organ donor that would, in turn, donate a kidney to your loved one.”

Even if you are not a candidate for kidney donation, you can help your loved one spread the word.

4)   Myth: I can only donate a kidney to someone who is the same ethnicity as me.

False. It does not matter what gender, race or ethnicity you are. You don’t even have to be a family member to donate a kidney to someone. What matters is blood type. From there, a series of compatibility tests will tell your doctor whether your kidney is a match for someone who needs one.

“The majority of living organ donors in Georgia last year were white women,” Parker says. “While race or ethnicity doesn’t determine whether you will be a match for a loved one, there increasingly is a need for more diversity in organ donation as 74 percent of those on the kidney transplant waiting list in Georgia are minorities.”

5)   Myth: If I donate a kidney, I’m at increased risk for health issues later in life.

False. A living donor’s risk of developing kidney failure following donation is less than 1 percent. Living kidney donors typically follow up with a primary care physician yearly to maintain good health.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, there are nearly 97,000 people waiting for a kidney transplant in the United States. Last year, 158 Georgians became living kidney donors.

For more information on becoming a living kidney donor, visit piedmont.org/livingdonor.

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