Living Organ Donation: How to Give the Gift of Life

April 23, 2024

When you think about organ donation, you might feel it’s something you can only do at the end of your life. You may be surprised to learn that’s not true.

Living organ donation is a way to give a healthy organ — or part of one — to someone with an organ that no longer works well. Being a living donor requires some tests and surgery, but the process isn’t as complicated as you may believe.

You can be a living donor for someone you know, or you can give the gift of life to a stranger. If you’re interested in donating, here’s what you need to know.

What Is Living Organ Donation?

Living organ donation is a procedure that removes an organ (or part of an organ) from a living person to give it to someone else. It is an important alternative to organ donations from donors who have died.

There are currently 103,000 Americans on the national transplant waiting list. However, few people are actually able to donate their organs after they die. Only approximately 6,000 organs come from living donors every year. So, there is a significant need for more living donors.

There are two types of living organ donations.

  • Directed donations are the most common. This donation involves giving an organ to a specific person like a blood relative, friend or co-worker.
  • In a non-directed donation, you donate an organ that may match with any compatible person who has a medical need.

Kidney Transplant – Living Donor Advantages

Watch to learn about some of the advantages of living donor kidney transplants from some of the leaders of our kidney transplant program.

What Organs Can Living Donors Donate?

There are several organs that living donors can donate:

  • Kidney transplant: Kidneys are the most frequently donated living organ. Roughly 86 percent of people waiting for an organ transplant need a kidney. These organs remove waste from your body. When your kidneys don’t work well, you need dialysis. Dialysis is a procedure that typically uses a machine to filter waste and extra fluid from your blood. The average life span for someone on dialysis is five to 10 years, and the procedure can also lead to infections and other complications.

  • Liver transplant: Your liver is a unique organ. It’s the only organ in your body that can regrow. So, you can donate part of it, and it will grow back to nearly its original size. New liver cells will also grow for the person who receives your donated liver tissue.

  • Pancreas, intestine, or lung transplant: These organ donations are rare. Unlike the liver, they won’t regrow. But the part you donate and the part you keep will continue to work well.

How to Become a Living Organ Donor

Doctors at Memorial Transplant Institute can help you if you’re interested in being a living donor.

Almost anyone has the potential to be a living donor, but there are a few requirements.

  • You must be at least 18 years old and in good physical and mental health.
  • Blood and urine tests are taken to rule out cancers or infections.
  • Other imaging tests and screening exams may be ordered to determine if your organs are healthy enough for donation.
  • You must also answer questions about your medical history and have a mental health evaluation.

If you want to donate to a specific person, a cross-matching blood test will determine if that is possible. This test will show doctors how a particular recipient will respond to your organ.

Rhonda’s Living Kidney Donor Transplant Crosses Florida-Georgia Line

When Rhonda’s coworker, John, learned that her kidney was failing, he came from Georgia to donate one of his kidneys to help her. The specialists at Memorial Transplant Institute performed the transplant, sparing Rhonda from kidney dialysis.

Benefits of Being a Living Organ Donor

There are many benefits linked to being a living organ donor.

  • Most importantly, if you match with someone who needs an organ, you could save their life.
  • Research also shows that patients who receive living organ donations have better outcomes. Usually, the living organ they receive is healthier than an organ from a deceased donor.
  • Living organ donations take less time to work well in the recipient’s body.
  • As a living organ donor, you have a say in who receives your organ. It can be satisfying to know you helped a family member, friend, or member of your community.
  • By donating, you may reduce the amount of time someone waits for an organ donation. That means they may need less complicated medical treatment. For example, someone receiving a living kidney donation may need less — or no — kidney dialysis.

Are There Any Myths About Living Organ Donation?

Living organ donation is less complicated and will change your life less than you may expect.

The surgery to remove your organ only lasts a couple of hours, and it is minimally invasive.
In fact, the cut needed to take out your kidney is roughly the size of your finger. You return home after 24 hours and can go back to work in about a week.

You don’t lose any organ function after donation.
Your remaining kidney or other organs will work well enough to handle all your health needs.

There is also no cost to be a living donor.
All your costs are paid for by the insurance company of the person who receives your organ.

If you’re interested in becoming a living donor, contact us at Memorial Transplant Institute. Our facility is the leading transplant facility in South Florida and the No. 8 transplant facility in the United States. Our compassionate care team, including a transplant coordinator, transplant pharmacist, surgeons and social workers, will be by your side for every step of your living donor journey. We look forward to being your partner in giving the gift of life.

“She’s a Match” Sister’s Kidney Transplant Brings Raymond New Life

Sister's Living Donor Kidney Transplant Brings Her Brother New Life