Every Thanksgiving at my house, we go around the table after dinner and talk about what we’re each thankful for–a fairly typical American tradition that for us started when my adult kids were little kids.The usual topics come up, of course: being together, good health, good news, good food. Naturally, one not-so-typical topic also has come up every year for nearly two decades: kidneys. So I decided to devote this Thanksgiving blog post to kidneys and living donation.
I’ll start. I am thankful for
- my right kidney (aka Righty). My son, Paul, is thankful for my left (both are doing well, thanks). Righty has managed to give me what would be a solidly normal kidney function for someone my age with two kidneys–and she’s done it all alone!
- the transplant team at the University of North Carolina Kidney Center that supported both of us skillfully and caringly throughout the donation and transplant process 16 and a half years ago.
So much has happened in the field of living donation since then, and prospective donors can now take advantage of options that didn’t practically exist in the early 2000s. So, even though my family didn’t benefit, I’m thankful that the recent donors I know and the would-be donors who have written to me in recent years can. Here are just a few of those options:
- Paired donation—not around when I donated—enables someone who isn’t a match for their intended recipient to donate a kidney to someone else to enable their recipient to get another, better-matched one, when he or she needs it. Often they donate to someone they don’t know–a “nondirected donation.”
- Expanded financial assistance for living donors–including nondirected ones–to cover lost wages and donation-related expenses like travel, childcare, and eldercare. In addition to organizations such as the National Kidney Registry and the Alliance for Paired Kidney Donation (see Resources), a big federal program that for many years covered only travel expenses–the National Living Donor Assistance Center (NLDAC)–has substantially expanded its financial assistance in the past couple of years. Thankfully, we managed without all that back then, but our situation was a best-case scenario in many ways.
- State-level living donor protections in 28 states, offering benefits that range from basic job protections to paid leave for state employees to tax credits. The list is growing while the federal version gets tantalizingly close to passage.
Now it’s your turn. If kidneys and/or living donation is a big topic in your house too, you might want to reflect on these worthy items for thanks giving after you finish your pie. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!