During Donate Life Month, the focus is typically on urging people to register to be donors after their death to try to meet the critical organ shortage. More than 100,000 people in the United States are currently waiting for an organ, most of them for a kidney. The reality is that, even though registering to donate is extremely important, unfortunately, it’s not sufficient to meet the need. That’s why I’m an advocate and the reason I created this website: to encourage and support people to consider living donation.
This year for the first time, Donate Life Month includes a special day to salute living donors: April 7 is Donate Life Living Donor Day! The large photo below–the same one that graces the front page of this website–was taken almost exactly three years ago at the Bean in Chicago. We were quite a mixed bunch, mostly kidney donors but a few liver donors as well–such as the woman from India who donated to her husband (they were there with their two beautiful children, in fact). That weekend I met donors of all ages and regions. Some had given to family members, to friends, to someone they barely knew, and several even gave to someone they’d never met and still hadn’t years later. It was an inspiring, emotional, and extremely fun weekend.
In addition to adding to the number of available organs, living donation has several bonuses. Having a living donor typically produces a better outcome for the patient. It’s usually a better match, the surgery can be scheduled under optimal conditions, and, most important of all, it lasts longer. For a kidney recipient, that can be double the lifespan they might have after a transplant from a deceased donor. And even though living kidney donation is definitely major surgery, virtually all donor surgeries are done with minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, which makes a big difference in both pain and time to bounce back. It was much easier than this self-described wimp had ever expected.
Another bonus: every time someone who’s on the national waiting lists for a deceased donor finds a living donor and is removed from the list, that obviously shortens the list accordingly. So, in addition to helping the recipient, donors are indirectly helping countless others as well.
So here’s to you/us living donors! Please think about learning more on the subject, ask questions, think some more, and consider joining our ranks. Studies find that the vast majority of living donors have no regrets. I know it was the proudest day of my life.