Relax, Living Donors: Your Kidney Function Is Probably Just Fine

Anyone who’s been reading this blog for awhile knows that I periodically post in frustration about the subject of donors being needlessly upset when their kidney function appears slightly lower than “normal.” It’s usually because their provider has wrongly concluded that the donor thus has stage 2 or 3 chronic kidney disease. That’s not merely my opinion–I have no medical credentials–that’s according to respected medical writings on the subject.

The eGFR (kidney function) scale they’re referencing is relevant mainly for people with two kidneys who may be showing signs of kidney disease.Well-meaning but uninformed providers–sometimes even nephrologists (kidney specialists)–often forget that a healthy donor is probably registering lower kidney function simply because he or she has one kidney.

Donors do lose kidney function, but the remaining kidney gets plumper and takes on some of that burden; their creatinine level (toxins in the blood) may be borderline for a few months but then typically stabilizes at a perfectly acceptable level. Mine, for example, 15 years after donation, is fine even for someone with two kidneys.

I recently heard of other examples of confusion on this point, so it bears repeating: a slightly higher creatinine and a slightly lower kidney function in an otherwise healthy living donor is just fine!

Transplant teams need to do a better job of preparing their donors for the likelihood of their having a “new normal.” Equally important, teams should routinely alert a donor’s PCP to this eventuality from the start–that is, when the donor leaves the team’s care soon after the donation.

Some frightened donors have run to consult a nephrologist, worried that they had developed chronic kidney disease. (I’m not suggesting that there are never instances of a living donor developing kidney disease, but those are rare. We’re talking here about a donor who is in good health and showing no signs of kidney disease.)

In Facebook support groups, even well-informed donors often describe having had to get a letter from the transplant team to “convince” their provider that the donor knew what he or she was talking about.

If even health care providers are not fully informed, is it any wonder that donors–not to mention the general public–are not fully informed about living donation? Given the urgent need for more living donors, our health care system and the kidney community need to do a better job of raising awareness about kidney disease and donation.

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For related posts, resources, and information on my new book, The Insider’s Guide to Living Kidney Donation, be sure to explore the rest of my website.

Save $$ and Spread the Word

I’m always appreciative when people spread the word about this website and related issues that are important to me: organ donation, living kidney donation, chronic kidney disease, and, most recently, our book, The Insider’s Guide to Living Kidney Donation. There are lots of ways you can do that.

#1. Whether you buy the book on Amazon or any other site (see below), please consider posting a review of the book on Amazon.

#2. This week only, click here to get 30% off the price of the paperback! Use promotion code KIDNEY (okay, so it’s not very original, but it IS easy to remember, right?) at checkout.

#3. Share all this information and the links on your social media posts, and, of course with friends and family.

A Third Shot Wasn’t the Charm

In August, I excitedly wrote about my (kidney recipient) adult son getting his booster shot, with important reminders for organ recipients. It was great news to get that third shot at protection because, like so many other people with suppressed immune systems, his body had not made any antibodies from the first two shots. His immune system, tamped down to coexist with his gifted kidney, didn’t react to the vaccine the way it does for people with strong immune systems.

Photo by Gustavo Fring on

So naturally he was realistic but still hopeful that the third one might do the trick. “Fingers crossed,” I wrote. He was told to wait a month or so before getting the spike protein antibody test to check, which he did recently.

Alas, though we were not surprised, our family was really disappointed to learn that his immune system hadn’t responded to the third one either. Fortunately, the body still has other ways, like memory T cells, to protect it from infections like COVID, but we have no way to know how much protection they’re providing.

So, until this is all over–and I know I’ve said this many times before–my son’s best hope of avoiding COVID and staying healthy is for everyone to get vaccinated and wear masks as needed! It’s not only for the protection of my son and other organ recipients, but for the millions of people with weakened immune systems from HIV, cancer, auto-immune diseases, and certain treatments.

Don’t we all want this to be over as soon as possible? Doing our best to protect one another is really the only way.

#3, Thanks to You!

Two years ago this month I happily reported that “Could You Be a Kidney Donor?” was #10 on the Top 30 Kidney Donor Blogs website. My blog has stayed in the top 10 ever since and has even inched up the chart. Well, now I’m thrilled to see that it has made it all the way to number 3! Numbers 1 and 2 are both affiliated with big-league players–National Kidney Foundation and the Kidney Foundation of Canada, respectively–so I’m particularly pleased to be the first for individual blogs.

Photo by Jill Burrow on

Thank you for putting us up there. Please follow the blog, explore the rest of the website for resources and related information–and spread the word! And, of course, be sure to check out my new book, The Insider’s Guide to Living Kidney Donation.

Why Does Everybody Want a Live Donor?

Like many living donors and donation advocates, I get frequent Facebook requests to “like” a page for someone looking for a kidney–that is, for a living kidney donor. If you’ve only recently heard of such things in passing–perhaps a friend of a friend or someone at work–you may wonder what the fuss is all about. Last year I wrote a post explaining why there’s such an emphasis on finding a live donor.

Photo by Julia Larson on

Here’s an additional benefit that’s implicit, but I’ll admit I hadn’t realized it at first: every time someone on the U.S. list (roughly 100,000 people) finds a living donor, they’re removed from the list, which obviously then gets shorter. In other words, everyone benefits, not just the intended recipient. And if it’s part of a paired donation–that is, a kidney swap–or even a chain, then multiple lives are saved.

None of these exciting options were available when my son’s kidneys were failing back in 2004, so we’ve certainly seen dramatic progress. But there’s still a long way to go to meet the critical need.

For related posts and information on my new book, The Insider’s Guide to Living Kidney Donation, be sure to explore the rest of my website.