Donated kidneys in short supply
CHAMPAIGN — Some people give their money and some people give their time. Many more people are needed to become organ donors, a Chicago transplant surgeon says.
People with failed kidneys need a kidney transplant or dialysis, a blood-cleaning procedure to prevent waste from building up inside the body. But for the best outcome, the transplant should be done before a patient has to begin dialysis and becomes progressively sicker, says Dr. Juan Carlos Caicedo, a transplant surgeon and director of the Hispanic transplant program at Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Unfortunately, he says, many people who need transplants don't get them because of the shortage of both living and deceased kidney donors.
Some numbers to consider:
— There are just over 96,000 people waiting for kidneys in the U.S., according to the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network.
— Last year, there were 16,812 kidney transplant surgeries done, with about 11,000 of them done via living donors, according to the National Kidney Foundation.
— Also, according to the foundation, 4,903 people died waiting for a kidney transplant last year.
To become a living donor, you must be at least 18 years old, in good heath, have health insurance and lack a history of chronic illness such as cancer, diabetes or heart disease. The donor must also undergo an evaluation process and be able to comply with follow-up care, according to Northwestern Memorial.
The laparoscopic surgery procedure done to remove the kidney from the donor involves two small port holes for the instruments and an incision of a couple inches long to slide out the kidney, Caicedo said.
The donor typically can eat, drink and walk the same day of the surgery, go home the next day most of the time and can return to work in two to three weeks if it's a light job, he said.
A donor with a heavy-lifting job could be off work for six to 10 weeks, Caicedo said.
Costs are typically born by the kidney recipient's insurance, he said.
The surgery, like any, isn't risk-free for the donor, Northwestern Memorial warns. Prospective donors must be able to tell the transplant team their reasons for donating once they understand the benefits and risks. And they will be thoroughly screened to make sure there are no medical, surgical or psychosocial reasons being a donor would be inadvisable.
After all, Caicedo said, "they don't need this operation. They are doing something wonderful for somebody else."