It always takes me a while to digest what I’ve learned from my latest visit to the Renal Clinic. And I had some great news at my last visit! But first I have to tell you all how completely humbled I am by the generous offers of kidneys. And if you couldn’t offer a kidney, many of you offered to be a driver for hospital visits, to give help with anything at home or you gave hugs (either in person or otherwise) of encouragement. It all means so very much. I want to use my experience to start the conversation of organ donation, especially the topic of living donors. I think that has definitely happened! And for that especially, I thank you! ❤
Many of you have asked questions and I promised some updated info about becoming a living donor. So, here goes…
There were a lot of questions about blood types and who can donate to whom, so I created a chart that would help explain it better. Whether you are a blood donor or a living donor, the same rules apply and works like this: Look for your blood type in the first column; follow that row across to see who you can “Donate To” (2nd column) and who you can “Receive From” (last column). For example, if you are blood type AB+, you can donate to someone AB+ only. But you can receive from any blood type. I am blood type O+, so I can receive from an O+ or O- person. If I had healthy kidneys or could donate blood, I could donate to someone who has O+, A+, B+ or AB+ blood type.
How do I know if I’m eligible to be a living donor?
The Kidney Foundation of Canada says it best: “A good living donor candidate is someone who is healthy, well-informed and makes a voluntary decision to donate one of their kidneys. Living donors must be over 18 and usually less than 70 years of age. They must be in good general health with no evidence of significant high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, heart disease or hepatitis.”
Who do I contact if I want to donate a kidney?
Initially, I had told people to visit their doctor. However, if you are serious about becoming a living donor you need to contact the Donor Coordinator who can answer any questions you may have. And I will explain this more a bit later when I tell you my good news.
Can I donate a kidney to just you?
Again, this can be answered by the Donor Coordinator. I can tell you that there are some initial tests performed to see whether you would be a possible good match for me. If yes, then you can decide to go further with more testing when the time comes. If no, then you are free to not go any further in the donor process. And know that I would appreciate you for even trying.
Ok, so let’s get on to my good news as it will answer even more questions and help you decide if you still want to be a living donor.
I am quite apprehensive at the beginning of each visit to the Renal Clinic. The first thing they tell me is the magic eGFR number which represents my level of kidney function. It is currently at 18%! EIGHTEEN PERCENT!! That means I have not lost any function in the last 7 months! And since I have done so well with doing everything I am s’posed to do – drinking 3 litres of water per day, eating low/no salt foods and staying on the renal diet – I don’t have to go back to the Renal Clinic for 6 months! I still have bloodwork done every 3 months so they can keep track of my eGFR. If there is a drastic change, they will let me know asap. But for now, I am holding my own. My nephrologist also said that his initial prediction of me needing dialysis in 1 – 1.5 years (as of last November) has changed. It could possibly be another 1 – 2 years or more from now before I need dialysis. Plenty of time to find a new kidney, right?
So here is what happens if you really want to be a living donor.
The most important thing is that you are healthy and up-to-date on all your regular tests – annual bloodwork, mammogram, pap test, prostate exam and dental checkups. Have your blood checked to find out/confirm your blood type. You will have some initial tests done to determine if it is safe for you to donate. After that, we wait until my renal function is 15% as that will give time to move forward with the next set of tests which can take up to 6 months. It is during this time that you may want to weigh the pros and cons of being a living donor. You can contact the Donor Coordinator at 1-888-362-8555. She will address any concerns you may have and give you more in-depth information about the process leading up to the operation to remove a kidney. Some things to consider are: 1) time off from work and 2) time away from family for travel, testing and then during the operation and recovery time, 3) non-medical expenses such as travel, child care and/or pet care (Medical expenses are covered by provincial health plans for living donors.) and 4) any potential benefits and risks to you personally both before and after the operation.
NOTE: At any time during the evaluation process, the donor can change their mind.
So, what happens if you do all the workup and discover that we are not a match? As I said in my previous post, I hope that people consider being a living donor not just for me. If you are not a match for me, you can still chose to be a living donor and help someone else. One way is to register with the Canadian Kidney Paired Donation (KPD) Program. You can download their brochure by clicking here. How it works is both donor and recipient register in the KPD program. Your kidney could be matched to another recipient and in turn a recipient could be matched to me. The Canadian Blood Services call it the Kidney Donor Domino Effect. I call it the ultimate Paying It Forward!
If being a living donor (Did you know you could donate part of your liver or lung instead?) is not for you, then this is where I will take liberty to tell you to remember to sign your donor card if you haven’t done so already. You can also register to be an organ/tissue donor by clicking here. By doing so, you could save the lives of up to 8 people and improve the quality of life of up to 75 people. I have heard some people say that they didn’t know if they would be eligible to donate and to that I say to just sign your donor card or register and let the professionals decide when the time comes.
If you still need some convincing that becoming a living donor or deciding to be an organ and tissue donor is the right decision, please watch the video at the link below. It is a CBC produced documentary called Memento Mori which in Latin means “remember that you have to die”. It is about 1.5 hours long, so get a cup of coffee or tea and sit back in a comfy chair and watch. It shows the perspective of recipients, donors, family members and the healthcare workers. Be warned though; it will make you cry. And it will make you think about life and how precious it is, and how even more precious our organs and tissue are after we no longer need them.
I’m not sure how long this documentary will be available at this link, so I encourage you to watch it soon.
To end this post, I’d like to thank you all again. And remember, at the very least, to start the conversation of organ and tissue donation and living donors with your friends or family.