Myth #1: Living with one kidney causes serious health issues.
Fact: There is good evidence that living with one kidney has little impact on your overall health, including lifespan. One healthy kidney provides more than enough filtering function to clean your blood. In some donors, small amounts of protein may be in the urine and if protein levels reach a certain level, a doctor will prescribe medication to control the amount and prevent any kidney damage. There is a slightly increased risk to develop high blood pressure and this can happen over several years. The overall risk of developing kidney failure is low in the long term. Approximately, 3 in 1000 kidney donors will develop kidney failure in the first 15 years after donation.
Myth #2: A donor needs to be in perfect health.
Fact: Although a donor does not need to be in perfect health, there are some medical conditions that may limit someone's ability to donate. These include diabetes, kidney disease, most types of cancers, serious heart disease and obesity.
Fact: Fact: A donor does not need to be biologically related to the recipient. As long as they are in good health, willing to donate, have a blood type that is compatible with the recipient's, and are over the age of 18, they can donate.
Myth #3: A donor needs to be a family member.
Myth #4: A donor and recipient must be in the same blood group.
Fact: A donor and a recipient do not need to be in the same blood group, but they should have compatible blood types. For example, a donor with O blood can donate to any blood type. A donor with B blood can donate to B or AB blood type recipients. If the donor and recipient are not found to be compatible, a donor can still donate their kidney through the Kidney Paired Donation Program. Note also that the criteria to be a living organ donor are not the same as to donate blood. Sometimes, you cannot donate blood but you can donate a kidney.
Fact: All major religions in Canada support organ donation and encourage it as an act of generosity & compassion.
Myth #5: Not all major religions support organ donation.
Myth #6: A donor will have debilitating pain all the time.
Fact: A donor may have some pain after surgery from incisions, gas and bloating. This pain can be controlled with pain medication and will decrease over time. By week 2-4, there should be no pain and the donor should be able to resume most daily activities.
Fact: A donor should be able to return to regular activities, including sports and exercise, 4-6 weeks after surgery. Until then, a donor should avoid lifting anything heavier than 10 pounds to allow their muscles to heal properly.
Myth #7: A donor can no longer do sports.
Myth #8: A donor will have to follow a new diet plan.
Fact: A donor should eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. There are no dietary restrictions after donation.
Fact: It is recommended that a donor wait 6 months after surgery before becoming pregnant. Most living kidney donors go on to have uncomplicated pregnancies without harm to the baby. There is a slightly increased risk of developing high blood pressure during pregnancy after donation.
Myth #9: A donor should not get pregnant after donation.
Myth #10: Donating a kidney reduces the donor's life expectancy.
Fact: Donating a kidney does not decrease a person's life expectancy. Interestingly, because living kidney donors are very healthy, they were found in one study to outlive the average person.
Myth #11: Donors must take medication for the rest of their life.
Fact: Kidney donors may take pain medications after surgery or antibiotics if they develop a wound infection. This would be for a short period. However, they should not need any long-term medications related to kidney donation. Kidney donors do not need to take medication. If new health issues come up during their lifetime, medications may be required. This is the same as anyone else who did not donate a kidney.
Myth #12: A donor will be in the hospital for a long time.
Fact: The hospital stay for a living kidney donor is 2-4 days long. At the time of discharge, most donors will be able to bathe, dress and fully care for themselves.
Myth #13: If I decide to donate, I can't change my mind.
Fact: If you decide not to donate, we will maintain your privacy at all times. The donor team will report that you cannot donate at this time for health reasons. It will be up to you if you wish to give more information. You can change your mind at any time, even the day of surgery.
Myth #14: The transplant will be scheduled immediately.
Fact: The timing of the surgery will depend on the needs of the recipient. If the recipient is on dialysis, the surgery can take place soon after the evaluations are complete. The average evaluation period is 3-6 months.
If the recipient is followed by the Multicare Kidney Clinic, it will depend on how much kidney function they have. Sometimes their function deteriorates quickly, while other times it may take months or years for them to be ready for the transplant. We will try to give you as much notice as we can about the transplant date.
Myth #15: The kidney removed is chosen randomly.
Fact: For both types of nephrectomy, the left kidney is usually chosen. It tends to have longer blood vessels and is easier to access. In some cases the surgical team may decide to remove the right kidney for transplant, if it is in the best interest of the donor.
Myth #16: Transplant surgery carries many common risks.
Fact: Shortly after the donation, donors face a few risks, which are relatively uncommon. These are summarized below:
Allergic reaction to anesthetic, <2% risk
Lung collapse (pneumothorax), <2% risk
The lung often heals on its own.
Blood clots, <2% risk
This risk can be reduced using compression stockings, blood thinners and early mobilization.
Bleeding, <5% risk
The Ottawa Hospital has a blood conservation program which allows you to bank your blood before surgery in case you need a transfusion.
Myth #17: Only young people can donate.
Fact: There is no age cut-off to donate a kidney, as long as the donor is at least 18 years old. The oldest living kidney donor at The Ottawa Hospital donated at 77 years old.