We come from the land of “Daan-Veer Kaarna” and donations and philanthropy is a part of our life, but would we be willing to donate a part of our body for some one. Even when this someone is a near and dear relative! When a part of your body is removed and re-applied in another living individual for his benefit, this is called organ donation.

To understand intricacies of organ donation we would discuss using kidney transplantation as a base. Remember, there is no greater donation than ‘Organ Donation.’ Although care is taken that there is no risk or lasting loss to the donor, but to spare a part of your body for our loved ones, undoubtedly it is a huge emotional decision. To undergo a supra-major surgery when there is no disease is indeed a difficult choice to make. The advantages are also enormous. You give your loved one a new lease of life. The quality of life is indeed much superior after kidney transplant (commonest organ donation) when compared to life on dialysis. If you were in this dilemma whether to donate or not to, there would surely be a lot of questions. Here are some of those questions answered.

  1. What is the process for determining whether I can donate a kidney?

    The short answer is you need to show three things:

    • a. You have blood and tissue types compatible to the recipient
    • b. You are generally healthy
    • c. You have two healthy kidneys.

    You might also undergo psychological and physical assessments.

  2. Who is considered an ideal donor?

    Any related motivated individual with age between 25 to 60 years with no prior kidney disease and no other medical problem would be ideal donor.
  3. Who is considered ‘related’ for kidney transplant?

    The definition of ‘related’ includes siblings, parents, children & spouse. Among this the possibility of having a maximum match is with a sibling.
  4. What are the long-term effects on me if I donate one of my kidneys?

    Research has shown there are few, if any, long-term effects on a living kidney donor. There are small possibilities of high blood pressure and elevated levels of protein in the urine.
  5. What would be the benefits to my patient if I as a related person give him my kidney?

    The advantages to my patient would be

    • a. Better total graft survival: related live donor kidneys survive better than non-related or cadaveric.
    • b. Less recipient morbidity.
    • c. Better planning of surgery as long and indefinite waits for the cadaver is not there.
    • d. Limitation of the waiting time on dialysis.
    • e. Reduced stress on cadaver pool.
  6. I've been asked to donate but I just don't want to do it. What should I do?

    The decision whether or not to donate ultimately is yours. So, the first thing is not to let people pressure you. Next, make sure you have all the information you need to make an educated decision. Ask questions, as many as you want. If you are frightened of things you don't understand, then seek out the information that helps you understand. Remember, finally it is your decision. There are ways of declining gracefully.
  7. I have a friend who needs a kidney and I'd like to donate but I'm not related. Is that OK?

    Yes, it is possible. There is a legal procedure for it where your motives for donation would be recorded. It needs to be proved that there is no financial motive in this act.
  8. I need money and I'd like to donate one of my kidneys. Can I do this?

    No. This is a crime and is not possible and tolerated by the law. To date, no reputable organization pays for human organs anywhere in the world.
  9. What are the odds my donated kidney will work...that it won't be rejected?

    Most well selected living donor transplants would do well although no guarantee or assurance is possible in this regard. Statistics show that the kidney donated from living donors is still functioning in 97% cases after one year and 85% of cases after four years. Even so, you should be prepared mentally for the possibility of rejection.
  10. I've got lots of questions about donating. Who should I talk to?

    The first place to go is the transplant team. Talk to the transplant coordinator (usually a nurse), the surgeon, the social worker, or whomever you are most comfortable with. You should also consider talking with friends, family, religious leaders, and others you trust. You could ask to meet patients who have already had transplant. They would be in the best position to give you first hand information.
  11. Would my quality of life change after kidney donation?

    No, you would be able to maintain your life-style after kidney donation. You may have some restrictions for three months but after that it would be normal. You may be advised to avoid contact sports after donation to prevent possibility of injury to the kidney otherwise there are no dietary or lifestyle changes, there is no restriction on the type of work you do.
  12. What happens if no one in my family is willing to donate the kidney or is unfit to donate?

    This is an unfortunate situation. Patient has to stay on dialysis. The only other option is cadaver kidney transplantation. Cadaver kidney transplant is a procedure in which a brain dead person’s kidney is removed and transplanted in the patient.
  13. What is brain dead?

    Brain dead is a situation when in a road traffic accident a person suffers such a severe damage to his brain that it is unlikely to ever work again. For the time being his heart and lungs may be working, either spontaneous or on medications. In this situation if the person’s family wishes his many vital organs can be utilized for the benefit of other patients. The organs that can be donated are kidney, heart, liver, pancreas, bones, skin & eyes. The decision of brain dead is a decision that a team of doctors takes. Multiple tests are performed to confirm brain dead status. Only after proper assessment and evaluation this offer is given to the patients family members.
  14. Does brain dead mean ‘dead’?

    Yes, in a brain dead person even though the heart is working, this person is not alive. His brain would never function. His brain would never support the vital functions of body. Only medicines and ventilators are maintaining the heart function. This would stop once the support is removed.
  15. Who gives the consent for this transplantation?

    The patient in his lifetime could have pledged his body himself but the consent for this transplantation is to be given by the family members. Spouse, kids, siblings & parents can give this consent.
  16. Is it all right to donate our loved ones body?

    This is one decision that the family has to take. The donor does not feel anything, as he is already brain dead. His body is treated with utmost dignity. All standard surgical care and precautions are taken. This could be one last great deed your loved one could do on his earthly visit. Surely this act can make two kidney failure patients, one heart failure patient, one liver failure and one diabetes patient lead a near normal life. This is a hugely noble gesture.
  17. How long may a patient need to wait for cadaver transplant?

    The wait could be indefinite. This depends on luck & chance. The possibility would surely increase if more and more family members of brain dead persons were to donate the organs of their loved ones.
  18. What is the policy for the distribution of kidney from the cadaver?

    The cadaver organs are distributed based on a waiting list maintained in a central registry. Each patient receives a score and based on a proper protocol the organs are given to the most deserving patient.
  19. Who would pay for the surgery needed in the cadaver?

    The relatives of the brain dead person do not need to pay for this surgery. The cost for the surgery is included in the recipient’s fees.
  20. Does Hindu religion permit kidney transplant?

    Hindu or any other religion is not against transplant. In Hindu religion we worship Ganesha; isn’t he an example for transplantation.

To conclude, friends if your doctor says you could donate and you think you could donate then you should donate. It is a precious gift of life that too to a person you love and adore.

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