UCLA Kidney Transplant: Donate A Kidney Information

Curious about donating a kidney?

Hey friends! This post is for those of you who have reached out to me about what the process looks like to donate a kidney, and also I hope it’s helpful information for those of you who are also going through this same process.

Remember, I am not a representative of UCLA or an expert in any way, I am just sharing my journey as I need a kidney transplant and hope to help others with what I learn.

You will get some of this information after your initial visit to UCLA for your kidney transplant evaluation meeting. (Remember the big binder I told you that you get to take home, some of this information is in there.) Click below to download the UCLA donor information pdf.

First, a few details about donating a kidney:

You only need one kidney to live a healthy, long life. They will NOT accept your kidney if they think it will in any way put your health at risk. With that, as with any surgery, there are always risks involved.

  • Most donor surgery is done laparoscopically, meaning through tiny incisions.

  • The recuperation period is usually fairly quick, generally two weeks.

  • The cost of your evaluation and surgery will be covered by the recipient's insurance. The hospital can give you extensive information on this.

  • You will have a separate team of healthcare professionals to evaluate you as a living donor. Their job is to help you understand the risks and benefits and look out for YOUR best interests.

How to start the application:

Here is the link to the UCLA- Living Donor Program.

You will need to know the first and last name of the person you want to donate to, as well as their birth date. If you are looking to see if you would be a potential match for me, please message me, and I will give you my birth date.

Filling out the UCLA Living Donor form is the first step. If you pass this step, you will be contacted by a coordinator about what to do next. (Blood work, health scans, etc…)

It’s important to remember the last point I mentioned from above; you will have a separate team looking out for you to evaluate if you are a good candidate. They are looking at your current health, potential health issues in your future, your social support and emotional ability to handle going through this, etc.…

Also, the reason you have your own team is to ensure that at ANY POINT you can back out if you feel it’s no longer something you want to do and to make sure there is no coercion happening.

What if you are not a match?

There are a few things that can happen if you are not a match to donate your kidney:

  1. If you are not a match for specific health reasons, (depending on what they are), you can try and change your health and get screened again.

  2. You can make sure that you have chosen to be a donor when you pass away. The last stats I read were that 22 people die every day waiting for a transplant (not just kidney). Your body can help up to 50 people in need.

  3. You can help raise awareness and for others going through this process. Share the story of those you know who are looking for a kidney transplant. Currently, there are 100,000+ people on the list waiting for a deceased donor kidney. (For me that would be about 8-10 years if I wasn’t looking to find a living donor.)

  4. Donate money. The average kidney transplant costs approximately $335,000. Even with health insurance, which will cover the cost of the transplant, many people will still have expenses related to the surgery. It’s a lifetime of follow-up care and daily anti-rejection medications. These medications are very costly, and they’re as important to our survival as the transplant itself. For me, my transplant center is 200 miles from my home which will add substantial expenses for travel, food and temporary lodging post-transplant. You can make a tax-deductible donation for me here.

  5. You may not be the perfect fit for your designated person, but there is still a way to give. Paired Kidney Exchange/Kidney Swap or a Kidney Chain are two ways this can happen. In a paired kidney exchange two donors happen to be a perfect match for the other person’s person. Imagine two moms (mom A and Mom B) who both had spouses (Spouse A and Spouse B) who needed a transplant and they were willing to give but weren’t quite the perfect match. Through testing, they could come to realize that Mom A was a good fit for Spouse B, and Mom B was a good fit for Spouse A. An agreement made (a paired kidney exchange) that they both still give so that each spouse gets what they need. To learn about a Kidney Chain, you can watch videos here. (It’s a paired exchange, but beyond just the four people involved in that.)

You can learn more about living donation on the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) website. You can also call the NKF’s free, confidential hotline at 855-653-2273.

I hope this is helpful as you move forward. The fact that you are even reading this to learn about donating shows such compassion and those of us on the other end are eternally grateful. It’s hard to process the reality of another human being willing to give you an organ, and it’s humbling.

When I sent my first potential donor the link to the UCLA Donor page, I didn’t know how to begin to start the message. Uh…’About you being willing to give me a kidney and prolong my life…’ It’s awkward and beautiful, and I’m not sure the pleasantries that are appropriate for such an ask. So thank you.

All my love,

Sarah

Example of a Kidney Chain