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• Once you have made your decision to donate, please discuss your decision with family and friends. Expect that they may have some interesting reactions, largely out of concern for your welfare. To help them understand, share your research as well as your reasons for wanting to donate.
• If you’re a female and are considering having children AFTER your donation, be sure to discuss this with your doctor. Kidney donors are often considered ‘high risk’ during pregnancy.
• Try to bring you caregiver with you on as many appointments as possible. Between nerves, excitement, and the barrage of information, you could miss something important that your caregiver doesn’t.
• Explain to your children that although you want to hug and lift them, after surgery you won’t be able to for a while. The general rule of thumb is not to lift anything heavier than five pounds after post-donation for about a month.
• If you are a dog owner (large dogs or jumpers) and don’t have someone to help you on a daily basis, you may want to consider boarding them or asking a friend to take your pet for a few days. You’ll want to avoid having them jump on your fresh incisions.
• Keep in mind that once you start testing and are approved to donate it is vital that you practice safe sex. You do not want to transmit any diseases you may have picked up after testing, but before surgery, to your recipient.
• Prior to donating, be sure to find out from your transplant center exactly what follow-up appointments you will be given and at what intervals. Keep in mind that two years of follow-up care is mandated by UNOS.
• Make sure you ask what kind of internal staples you will have. Some, like titanium, are MRI safe should you need one in the future.
• You should ask your transplant coordinator to send ALL of your test results to your general physician.
• It is very common for donors to feel nervous or excited right before surgery – and usually both at the same time!
• If you live alone, go shopping prior to surgery for items that you may want during recovery. You might also want to prepare a few meals ahead of time that are easy for you to simply reheat and enjoy. Shop for things that are light and easy on your stomach, as you might feel quite full and uncomfortable for several days after surgery. It’s smart to eat often and in small portions for the first couple of days.
• If you want to have a change of clothes after surgery, a loose, button-down shirt will make things a bit easier. Your abdomeum will be fairly extended and tender from the gas they put in it for the surgery, so you won’t want anything tight. Slip-on shoes will also make things much easier when you’re sore.
• Wear comfortable clothing (such as loose sweat pants) that give you room so nothing rubs against your incision.
• Your abdomen will be quite sore after surgery, so you’ll want to protect it. Having a pillow you can hug for the car ride home helps tremendously.
• If you have to cough or sneeze, hold a pillow firmly over your tummy – it helps!
• Most centers recommend that you do not drive for at least two weeks post-donation.
• Speak to your employer before donation about easing slowly back into work. When your doctor clears you to return to your normal activities, you might not realize how taxing those first few days will be. Working half days or from home for a few days, if possible, can help during the transition.
• There is a possibility that you might have little or no appetite while you’re recuperating – this is completely normal.
• Depending on how you sleep (forget sleeping on your stomach for a while!), lots and lots of pillows can help make you more comfortable. Tucking several of them between your thighs can help take pressure off of your incisions.
• When you are feeling back to normal (or close to it) and your incisions are healing properly, try to avoid becoming overly confident and begin lifting heavy objects or jump back into your normal exercise routine, for example. Internal healing takes much longer than the superficial incisions, so you should slowly and gently ease back into your old routine.
• Remember that everyone heals at a different pace. You know your own body well enough to know if you are able to drive, return to work, and resume other activities. Listen to your body. Take baby steps, such as making a short car trip to see how you feel or taking a brisk walk before getting back to your jogging routine.
• Fatigue is a common side effect. It can take quite some time for you to regain your normal stamina – weeks, months, sometimes even a year. If you’re tired, rest. Don’t overdo it – this is not a contest.
• It is normal for it to take a few days before you have your first post-donation bowel movement. Don’t be alarmed if you don’t go right away!
• Don’t ever hesitate to call your transplant center/coordinator with ANY questions or concerns you may have. There are no stupid questions. You have just given the gift of life – it is imperative for you to take care of yours. Don’t be shy. Be proactive about your health and wellbeing, both physical and mental. If they don’t call you back in a reasonable amount of time, keep trying. In the meantime, contact a local physician with your questions.
• You should see your own doctor 3-6 months post-surgery to ensure that your remaining kidney is functioning properly.
• Many non-directed donors never meet their recipients, so don’t let that motivate your decision. However, you should let your coordinator know if you are open to contact should your recipient want to reach out in the future.
• Most doctors recommend taking Tylenol over Advil once you’ve donated your kidney.
• Be sure to keep yourself well hydrated before and certainly after donation.
• Most doctors recommend avoiding contact sports to reduce the risk of damaging your one remaining kidney.
• You should always check with your doctor/pharmacist before taking any medication post-donation. Ask your pharmacist if they are able to make a note in your file that you have one kidney and be sure to consult with them on any medication purchases – even common over-the-counter drugs.
• You should carry something in your wallet that clearly states that you only have one kidney and/or that you’re a living donor. It should state which kidney you still have (right or left) and your donation date. This is a smart thing to carry if you are traveling or going out alone. Should you have an accident, it will immediately alert the medical community of your status. A quick online search will bring up many appealing options to purchase a medical alert card.
• Ask your transplant center about what you, as a donor in this category, should be aware of.
• Know Your Kidney Function - It is important for you to understand how kidney function is measured, and to know what your kidney function tests indicate before and after donation. All donors are expected to lose some kidney function after donation. If at your post-transplant follow up visits your kidney function tests do not indicate you are functioning at the level the doctors originally projected for you, make sure to discuss the reasons with them. If you have further questions, you may consider seeking out further testing so that you are confident that you understand what your kidney function is and how you can best manage your health.
• The donor community is fairly large, and most donors are more than happy to talk about their experiences. Don’t be afraid to reach out with questions or just to talk! And of course, you can always contact us at: INFO@LKDA.com.
Information and answers to some of the most frequently
asked questions regarding living kidney donation.
Before & After Donation
Please note that the members of the LKDA are not medical professionals and the content of our site is not meant to replace any advice or information provided to you by members of the medical community. Any medical questions should be directed to your physician or your transplant team.
© 2012 Living Kidney Donors Alliance. All rights reserved.