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Transplant Recipient Information

About living donation

For more information about living kidney donation, who can donate, and the testing that’s done to match donors and recipients, go to Living kidney donation​.​

What is living kidney donation?

A living kidney donation is when a healthy person gives a kidney to someone who needs one.

Most people are born with 2 kidneys, but together, 2 kidneys can do more work than what the body needs. Living donors can live healthy, normal lives with 1 kidney.

Living donors often donate because they want the recipient to be healthier and have a better quality of life.

Who can be a living donor?

Living donors can be just about anyone. They can be:

  • a person 18 years of age or older
  • a family member
  • a friend
  • a co-worker
  • a partner or spouse
  • an anonymous donor – someone you don’t know and who wants to keep their identity private

Who is the best match?

All donors have many tests done to make sure you get the best match possible.

A family member is usually the best match because you share the same genes, and your body is less likely to reject the kidney. But there’s no guarantee that a family member will be a good match. Many kidneys are donated by people who aren’t genetically related, for example a spouse or close friend, to the person getting the kidney.

What are the benefits of living donor kidney transplant?

Transplant can be done sooner – The most important benefit is that the living donation can often happen much sooner than a transplant from a deceased donor. The difference can be years earlier. Surgery can then be scheduled soon after the donor and recipient evaluations and approvals are done.

Donated kidney usually lasts longer – A kidney from a living donor will often last longer. It can last 15 to 20 years. A deceased kidney donation often lasts 10 to 15 years.

The kidney from a living donor is usually healthier than one from a deceased donor. Many tests are done on the living donor to make sure their kidney is healthy and working well. There’s also time to search for a more precise match between a living donor and the recipient. Many tests are done with the potential living donor and the recipient to make sure any kidney is a good match.

Transplant can be done before dialysis starts – This is called pre-emptive transplant. The transplant takes place before your kidney failure becomes too severe. It’s the best option. Research shows that people live longer, and their transplant lasts longer if they can get a transplant before starting dialysis.

Transplant surgery can be planned – The surgery can be scheduled to happen at the best time for both the donor and the recipient. This helps everyone make plans for work, travel, and family duties.

Can my living donor be from outside of Alberta?

A potential donor can be from another province or country. Potential donors who live outside of Alberta need to contact the recipient’s local Living Donor Program office. It also helps to have the name of the Living Donor Program that is closest to them.

The programs for recipients and donors are separate to keep each person’s medical information private. But both programs work together to coordinate donations. If you know of someone who is thinking about becoming a living donor (potential donor) ask them to contact the Living Donor Program to learn about donation and how it works.

What feelings might I have if I’m a recipient?

It’s normal to have lots of different feelings about living donation, none are right or wrong. You might feel:

  • thankful that medical science has made living donation possible
  • hopeful that someone will be able to help you
  • confused about who can be a potential donor
  • hesitant to ask someone in case they say no
  • concerned about the effect of surgery on the donor and their life, or that something could happen to them
  • anxious about feeling like you owe the donor
  • disappointed that no one has come forward or offered
  • grateful that someone may be willing to help you
  • fearful that your body could reject the kidney

Whatever you’re feeling, you’re not alone. The transplant program team is here to support you on your journey.

Remember that at any time during the evaluation, donors have the right to change their mind.​​​

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