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Ask the Clarian Expert About…Kidney donations

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Dr. Tim Taber, medical director of Clarian Health Transplant’s kidney and pancreas transplant program, discusses the importance of kidney donation.

How can you donate a kidney?

Individuals should be at least 18 years of age and in good health. They should call the transplant center and ask to speak to a living donor coordinator, who will ask them a series of questions. If it appears that they are possible donors, they will have their blood drawn and be subject to other testing.

I am on dialysis. Can I live on dialysis, or should I be listed for a transplant?  

Individuals are potential candidates to receive a kidney transplant if they are reasonably healthy – with the exception of kidney failure. Specifically, they should be cancer-free for at least two years, have a healthy heart, lungs, etc. If they have specific questions, they should discuss this option with their nephrologist.

How does the waiting list work for a kidney transplant, and how long is the average wait? Is there a way to avoid the wait, or make it shorter?

Patients are placed on a waiting list with other individuals who have the same blood type. The wait is quite variable but, as a rule in Indiana, is somewhere between two and five years plus. To avoid the wait, an individual should speak to family and friends about being an altruistic kidney donor. Even if the potential donor does not match his or her blood type, there are now options that make use of most acceptable donors.

I heard about a paired donor program. How does that work and can I be eligible?

About 30 percent of people who wish to donate to a specific person will have an incompatible blood type or the potential recipient will have antibodies to the donor. In that case, patients can be placed in the paired donor program with other individuals in a similar circumstance. These individuals can then be paired up with other pairs and the potential donors can “swap” kidneys with another pair. There is also the potential for a paired kidney chain. In that instance, an individual wishes to give a kidney to someone who needs a transplant but does not have a specific individual in mind. They will then be matched up with a pair, the kidney transplant placed into the recipient, and that recipient’s potential donor will be matched up with another pair to whom they will give a kidney. This then will proceed forming a “chain.”

Do people who donate a kidney have a higher possibility of health problems such as high blood pressure? What if I donate a kidney, and my remaining kidney fails?

Many studies have been done on donors. The life expectancy, frequency of high blood pressure, etc. are all similar whether an individual is a donor or whether they have two kidneys. However, in the instance that a person has donated a kidney and develops kidney failure years later, the person (donor) is placed at the top of the local kidney transplant waiting list to receive the first kidney that matches them.

For more information, call 800-382-4602 or 800-510-2725 or visit www.clarian.org/transplant.

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