If you didn’t already know that there’s a critical kidney shortage, I hope you’ve seen the social media posts, including on this blog, and the public education campaign in honor of National Donate Life Month. If not, I can sum up very briefly: there simply are not enough available organs for all the people who need them in this country (more than 100,000 people are waiting for a kidney–most of them for several years).
You may also have read here and elsewhere that living donors represent the best option for people with kidney failure. They are usually better matches, typically last longer, and have better outcomes than kidneys from a deceased donor. But if you’re in need of a kidney, you may be wondering just how to start what is euphemistically referred to as “the conversation”–for the biggest ask of your life.
Let’s face it, people who have trouble asking for a ride to the airport don’t even begin to know how to ask for a bodily organ.
The good news is that you don’t have to ask. People who have succeeded in finding a kidney will tell you that the key is just to make it known that you need a transplant and provide basic information. Ask everyone you know to simply spread the word–whether by email, social media, in person, or shouted from the rooftops.
Granted, for some people, even this ask can be very challenging. A lot of people don’t like to draw attention to themselves and especially not when the focus is on their being in need. But viewing it as an opportunity to educate people about kidney disease and living donation may help make the quest more palatable and certainly meaningful.
The other piece of good news is that you also don’t need to figure it all out on your own. The National Kidney Foundation, among other organizations, offers workshops and resources to guide you. The Living Kidney Donor Network, founded by two-time live-kidney transplant recipient and active donation advocate Harvey Mysel, created a program called “Having Your Donor Find You.” LKDN is a nonprofit dedicated to educating both the public and kidney patients about living donation. Its online program consists of a series of helpful videos, so you can take advantage of it no matter where you live–and it’s free.
When I donated my kidney to my son in 2006, ours was an obviously compelling situation. Since then though I’ve encountered many living donors who had no objective need or pressure to take action. They simply learned of a story of need that touched them and made them want to step in. That’s where social media and old-fashioned, low-tech word of mouth come in.
Some people even choose to donate to an unknown recipient whom they may never meet, initiating a swap or a chain. Multiple transplants are the awesome result. Paired donation and all the exciting variations weren’t available back when my son needed a kidney. They open up extraordinary possibilities today!