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Understanding Kidney Donation and Transplants

If you or a loved one is in need of a kidney donation, you are not alone. We are here to guide you through this urgent time of need. 

The majority of people on the organ transplant waitlist are in kidney failure, living with end-stage renal disease (ESRD). While treatments like dialysis can extend someone’s life, a kidney transplant from either a living or deceased donor can give them many more healthy years.

Facts About Kidney Donation

  • Icon of Kidneys

    More than 90,000

    people need a kidney transplant

  • Icon of Kidneys

    3-5 year

    average wait time for a kidney

  • Icon of Kidneys

    Every 10 minutes

    someone new joins the kidney transplant waitlist

Donor Network West volunteers smiling and laughing
One Choice Could Give Someone Eight More Birthdays

How to Donate a Kidney

Humans only require one kidney to function and thrive, making living donation both possible and preferred. That’s because kidneys from living donors perform best. On average, a living donor’s kidney can function up to eight more years than a deceased donor kidney transplant. That’s eight more birthdays and a lot more life to live. About one third of kidney donations come from a living donor.

“I give thanks that I could give the gift of life as my way of paying it forward and hope my grandchildren see me as a selfless person who cares for others.”
Donna Kapala | Living Donor
Read Story

Join the Registry

The Need is Great. While majority of Americans are in favor of being a donor, only 58% are actually registered. Give hope to the people and families waiting for a life-saving organ donation by accelerating the number of registered donors.

There are many ways to become a kidney donor

Types of Kidney Donation

  • Direct Living Kidney Donation

    If someone is healthy and willing they may decide to give one of their functioning kidneys directly to another person. To do this there is an evaluation and process to ensure the donor and recipient are a match for transplantation. If someone elects to donate a life-saving kidney there is no increased risk of having kidney failure later in life.

    The benefit of having a direct living donor is that you do not have to be on the waiting list and there are higher survival rates for the recipient.

  • Paired Living Kidney Donation

    Sometimes people want to donate to their loved one, but aren’t a match for reasons like incompatible blood type. This pair could then find another duo and exchange kidneys. For example, if a mother and son weren’t compatible, but the mother was compatible with the daughter of another pair, someone related to the daughter could exchange their kidney to the son in the first pair.

  • Altruistic Living Kidney Donation

    Altruistic kidney donation (sometimes called non-direct donation) is when a healthy, living person volunteers one of their kidneys for transplantation to another person they do not know.

  • Deceased Donor Kidney Transplant

    The majority of kidney transplants come from deceased donors. Meaning a person has died and had previously given permission or their family has given permission for them to be an organ donor. If their kidneys are healthy they will be given to someone on the transplant waiting list so they may have a second chance at life. On average, after a successful transplant, will give the recipient an additional 15-20 years.

Kidney Donation FAQs

  • What are the requirements to become a living kidney donor?

    The process to become a donor is determined through physical and mental evaluation and conducted through transplant centers. However, these are some of the criteria to become a living kidney donor:

    • Must be 18 years or older
    • Below a BMI of 35 before surgery
    • Non-smoker (or quit smoking at least 6 weeks before surgery)
    • Not pregnant
    • In good physical and mental health
    • Able to understand the risks of surgery
    • Able to follow instructions on preparing for and recovering from surgery
  • How do I find out if I’m a match for a kidney donation?

    People who donate an organ to a person in need are true heroes. If you want to give a kidney to someone you know or help a stranger in need, contact a transplant hospital (California Pacific Medical Center, UCSF, Sanford) to get involved. There are steps to take to learn if you are a match.

  • How do I become a kidney donor to someone I don’t know?

    Here’s how you can make a difference with an altruistic kidney donation:

    • Visit the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network’s website
    • Select “Transplant Centers by Organ” under member type
    • Select “Kidney” for organ type
    • Select state or region
    • If one or more programs pop up, you can use the phone number to contact the transplant center in your area
  • How do deceased donor kidney transplants work?

    A deceased-donor kidney transplant comes from someone who has recently died; the organ is removed with the consent of their family or their prior organ donor status. From there, the kidney is placed in a recipient whose kidneys have failed. Deceased donor kidney transplants follow the National Waiting List standards.

  • Steve saved Michael's life through donation. Donor sister, Jennifer, and Michael hold his picture
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