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How to Find a Living Kidney Donor

EJ Tamez

If you have been diagnosed with kidney disease and informed you need a kidney transplant, you may be wondering how to go about finding a living kidney donor.

If you have been approved for a kidney transplant, you will need to join the national waiting list for a kidney from a deceased donor. However, finding a living donor is a much better option. A living kidney donor transplant usually means a shorter wait time, a better donor–recipient match, improved patient survival rates, and a kidney that lasts approximately twice as long. For more information, see our blog post on deceased donor kidneys vs living donor kidneys.

There are several steps you can take to find a living kidney donor:

Raise Awareness: Start by spreading the word about your need for a kidney. Tell family, friends, acquaintances, and your community. In addition to speaking to people in person, you can post on social media, send emails, and even come up with creative ideas like making T-shirts, bumper stickers, and flyers to post in coffee shops, libraries, community centers, and anywhere else people might see them.

Set up a Microsite: If your transplant center participates in the microsite program, you can set up a free personal website where you can tell your story, post photos, explain how kidney disease has affected your health, and share how a living kidney donor transplant could change your life. Microsites give potential donors a way to learn about living donation and register to be tested as a donor on your behalf. Find a transplant center that participates in the microsite program.

Create a Strong Support Network: Finding a living donor is a team effort. Enlist family, friends, and anyone interested in helping and give each person a specific job. You’ll need help with administrative tasks, caregiving, and other daily tasks, plus you’ll need “champions”—people who can help spread the word about your need for a kidney.

Educate Potential Donors and Address Concerns: Many individuals are unfamiliar with the process of living kidney donation and may have concerns or misconceptions. Take the time to educate potential donors about the procedure, emphasizing the safety and positive outcomes associated with living kidney donation. Addressing concerns openly can alleviate fears and encourage potential donors to come forward.

Be Open and Grateful: When you’re looking for a living donor, the best approach is to be open with everyone, answering any questions honestly and avoiding putting pressure on anyone. Some people will not be willing to consider becoming your donor, and that is OK! Becoming a living donor is a personal decision and it’s not for everyone. If they don’t want to be a donor, they can help in plenty of other ways, so it’s important to keep things positive.

Ask Everyone: Asking for help can be difficult, and even more so when you are asking someone to undergo major surgery and give you one of their organs. While it may not be easy, don’t stop asking! Many people don’t donate simply because they don’t know how to get started or don’t know anyone who needs a kidney. There is someone out there who would welcome the chance to be your donor. The more you spread the word, the better your chances of finding them.