Adventures of a Kidney Donor

August 30, 2010

Living with One Kidney

When a kidney is removed, the remaining kidney will increase in size to compensate for the loss of the donated kidney. Some people are alarmed at the fact that I will be living with just one kidney, but actually kidney donors live as long or longer than people who have two kidneys.  A lot of research has come out lately showing the longevity of donors.  There are slight risks of higher blood pressure and Proteinuria (excess protein in the urine.)

Health Recommendations: Try to live as healthy a life as possible but pretty much the same rules apply for donors as non-donors. Eat a healthy diet, especially avoiding too much salt to protect your blood pressure. Drink alcohol in moderation. Exercise.  Avoid ibuprofen and take things like Tylenol and aspirin instead. Tell your doctors that you are a kidney donor because you should have a urinalysis each year to monitor your kidney function.

Mental Health Recommendations: A major study conducted on kidney donors found that less than 1% regretted the decision but 3 to 10% reported depression. Depression can come from fatigue after surgery, a major letdown after a big life event and even grieving over the loss of a major organ. Also, learning the outcome of the recipient’s surgery can have a big impact on the donor. If the recipient rejects the kidney it can cause great sorrow in the donor. Donors are encouraged to share their experiences with others through blogs (check!) and other social media, to connect with other donors and to seek professsional help if necessary.

No-Nos: No pregnancy until six months after donation. (No thanks at my age!) Check with your doctor but usually no heavy contact sports like boxing,  football, skydiving etc. (Oh crap, no skydiving?) No combat. (Darn!)

Watch Out For:

  • Insurance companies trying to deny you because you have a pre-existing condition. I THINK the new healthcare laws (Thank you President Obama!) prohibit that but the health professionals are still figuring that out.
  • Flack from your employer for time off. Have your donor advocate or coordinator from the hospital talk to them. We learned at our donor meeting that a lot of employers back off after your advocate or coordinator gets involved. We need LAWS to protect organ donors.

When the book group I facilitate @ work found out about my kidney donation they were very supportive. Gretchen, a member of the group, told me that she has been living with one kidney for many years because she had to have one removed when she was a teen. She said: “If this helps” and told me about it. Yes Gretchen, thanks, it does help! Nice to hear things like that.

The research on living life with one kidney is very reassuring:

**Requires a Michigan driver’s license or check with your local library.

Go to List of Resources on Kidney Donation

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