Why a living donor?
Living-donor kidney transplants are the most successful of all organ transplants. Since most people are born with two kidneys but need only one, kidneys are the most commonly transplanted living-donor organs. Living donors do not have to be blood relatives or even family members. Friends, neighbors, co-workers, acquaintances--people from all walks of life--can be living donors. Even complete strangers can (and frequently do) make living-kidney donations.
By far, a kidney patient’s best chance for survival is to receive a kidney from a living donor rather than a deceased donor. The advantages of living-donor transplants are substantial and numerous:
Compatibility: A transplant from the poorest-matched living donor is more successful than one from the best-matched deceased donor. Living donation allows time for more extensive testing of potential live donors than for deceased donors. More time enables the medical team to find the donor who is most compatible with the recipient. A better match lessens the risk of rejection once the kidney is transplanted.
Condition: Because a living donor can be evaluated extensively, a living-donor kidney itself is frequently in better condition than a deceased-donor kidney. In addition, there is no preservation time for a living-donor kidney. It can be walked from one operating room to another, and 30 minutes later, the transplanted kidney is working in the recipient.
Success Rate: One year after surgery, 90–95 of 100 people receiving living-donor kidneys still have healthy transplanted kidneys, as opposed to only 88 of 100 deceased-donor recipients. On average, kidneys transplanted from living donors last nearly twice as long as kidneys transplanted from deceased donors—sometimes up to 30 years or more.
Donated Kidney Half-Life
(The point in time when exactly 50% of the kidneys are still functioning)
National Kidney Registry/Orig.source: Clinical Transplants, 2005
Increased Patient Survival Rate: A living-donor transplant can be scheduled and performed before the recipient becomes extremely ill. This leads to fewer complications, faster recovery, and better long-term results. There is a better chance that the recipient's body will not reject a living-donor kidney. Because a living-donor kidney lasts longer than a deceased-donor kidney, the survival rate of living-donor recipients is better than that of deceased-donor recipients.
Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients Analysis, March 2010
Waiting Time: Approximately 100,000 people in the U.S. are waiting for a kidney transplant. The waiting time for a kidney from a nonliving donor varies by location. The average wait is 3-5 years, but in some areas the wait is as long as 10 years. Wait times for patients who have living donors are greatly reduced from years to months.
Lower Risk of Failure & Increased Life Expectancy: When someone must wait for a kidney, his or her only choice for survival is dialysis, which is very hard on the body. When someone has been on dialysis, even if only for a short time, the risk of transplant failure is much greater. The longer the wait, the more extensive the dialysis and the higher the risk of failure grows.
Optimal Timing: In addition to bypassing the wait, a living-donor transplant permits planning the surgery, which allows for the best health of both recipient and donor. The transplant can also be scheduled at the convenience of all persons involved, allowing greater flexibility and ease in planning for time away from work, child care, and so forth.
Avoids Post-transplant Dialysis: Some deceased-donor kidneys do not work immediately; the recipient may have to undergo dialysis until the kidney begins working. It is also much easier to monitor a kidney that works immediately.
Saves Two Lives: Every living donation enables two transplants because it shortens the deceased-donor waiting list, helping another person receive a deceased-donor kidney sooner. Twice as many people survive every time someone becomes a living donor.
Quite a Cabbie: Thomas Chappell was half an hour late the first time he picked up Rita Van Loenen to take her to dialysis. "When I got there, she was not happy," Chappell recalls. "The next day, it just so happens I got her again."
"He always got lost, too, which kinda made me a little crazy," Van Loenen, a special-education teacher, adds.
After driving her to dialysis for several weeks, Chappell shocked her one day: "I seen she was so sick, I said, 'Rita, hasn't anybody ever offered you a kidney?'" Chappell recalls. That night, he decided to offer one of his.
"I'm gonna go down and go through the process and see if it will work," he told her. "I don't think she really believed I was going to. By then, me and the good Lord already had a talk. He said 'Tom, you go give her one," Chappell explains.
"So the next week," Van Loenen says, "we did the cross match, where they look at different markers on our blood, and they told him that if we were any closer in match, we'd be siblings! There are better odds of getting struck by lightning. A random taxi driver offering to give me his kidney, and all these pieces match."
"This has put a whole new kind of lift in my boots," Chappell says. "I never knew what it felt like to give somebody life, and that's what I'm doing."
"I've had drivers do some pretty incredibly amazing things for no charge, said Jim Hickey, sales and marketing director for the cab company. "But this is just over the top. We're just so proud of him."
Chappell later received the International Association of Transport Regulators' most coveted award: "International Driver of the Year." Van Loene received something even better: a second chance at life.
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