Every once in a while, I mindlessly scroll through my website stats to see how a particular blog post or month of posts fared. I was curious when I noticed “Best Views Ever” (in more than three years): November 28, 2020. Hmm, what might that have been, I wondered. Naturally, I had to check it out.
I was delighted–and honestly, not too surprised–to see the title: “Kidney Donors Don’t Get Paid, But the Rewards Are Very Real.” I remember that a lot of living donors told me they’d read it while nodding in agreement, and many people pointed out that even though these things were pretty obvious to donors, transplant centers usually don’t give them enough weight. I just reread the post to see how it holds up nearly two years later. I can defend every word, so I’ve decided to reprint it here (rather than link to it) so it will have today’s date–and not be limited to kidney donors:
In previous posts, I’ve described some of the enormous benefits of a live vs. deceased-donor kidney transplant for the recipient, but did you know that there are many very real benefits to the living donor, too? For family members or couples, the benefits are nothing short of dramatic. And I’m not just talking about feel-good points.
For a family, the practical benefits can be as concrete as money in the bank. A spouse or parent whose ability to work was limited by dialysis for a long period may gradually be able to resume a full-time schedule–maybe even launch a new career. That can substantially improve the family’s ailing financial health as well.
For family caregivers, particularly, donating a kidney to the loved one you’ve been caring for can bring huge relief. The reduced stress and no doubt improved sleep can have considerable benefits in energy, mood, overall outlook, and, as a result, even job satisfaction.
Then there’s the extraordinary motivation of saving a loved one’s life or turning it around. A living donor I know who’d donated to her husband described her decision as “purely selfish. I wasn’t about to lose him,” she insisted. I know the feeling.
Seeing someone you love–in my case, my adult son–who’d been pale, weak, and listless for months or years gradually become their old self again is pretty powerful. And a donor whose partner wasn’t interested in intimacy during a long period of ill health may see a positive change in their relationship.
Want to improve your social life? Give your partner a kidney! Couples who have been uncomfortable for a long time about socializing—whether because of physical obstacles or simply due to the dialysis patient’s lack of energy or interest—may soon be able to enjoy evenings out with friends or family.
For anyone who donates a kidney—even to someone they don’t know—the benefits are nearly universal:
The feeling of personal gratification is indescribable. Knowing that you’ve helped give someone—anyone—a shot at a healthy, productive life—is an extraordinary feeling. Living donors in studies report a boost in self-esteem, and 9 out of 10 say they would do it again. Through donor-support groups I’m active in on Facebook, I’ve been struck by how life changing the experience has felt for most of us, including the few who have later had complications or whose recipient didn’t fare well for as long as expected.
A fascinating journal article inspired this post. The researchers argue that for the above reasons and more, transplant centers considering a potential donor’s relative risk might do well to acknowledge and give weight to the undeniable tangible benefits for certain donors.
“Van Pilsum Rasmussen, S. E., M. Henderson, J. Kahn, and D. Segev. “Considering Tangible Benefit for Interdependent Donors: Extending a Risk–Benefit Framework in Donor Selection.” American Journal of Transplantation 17, no. 10 (Oct. 2017): 2567-2571.
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.