You probably have heard of the enormous benefits of a living vs. deceased-donor kidney for the recipient, but did you know that there are real benefits to the donor, too?
For family members or couples, they are nothing short of dramatic:
1. Helping a loved one is an amazing feeling: To see a loved one who’s been pale, weak, and often listless for many months or years gradually become their old self again is pretty powerful. Before I donated my kidney to my son in 2006, his 20 months on dialysis had left him lethargic and depressed; seeing his smile when he came into my hospital room the day after the transplant was unforgettable.
2. A new lease on life: A partner who wasn’t interested in intimacy during the period when he or she was on dialysis may now discover a new bond.
3. Career goals become attainable again: A spouse or parent whose ability to work was limited for a long period may soon resume a full-time schedule–or even launch a new career–to substantially improve their quality of life, sense of self-worth, and the family’s finances.
4. A new outlook on life: Couples that have been uncomfortable for a long time about socializing—whether because of specific obstacles or simply due to the patient’s lack of energy or interest—will soon be able to enjoy evenings out with friends or family. In our case, my husband and I also limited our social life to a few close friends before the transplant because we couldn’t bear to have to repeat our long, sad story when someone asked “so, how have you all been?”
5. Live a stress-free life: If the donor has been the caregiver, the reduced stress and no doubt improved sleep can have considerable benefits in mood, overall outlook, and even job satisfaction.
For anyone who donates a kidney—even to someone they don’t know–these benefits are universal:
Self-esteem grows: The feeling of personal gratification is indescribable. Knowing that you’ve helped give someone—anyone—a chance at a healthy, productive life is an extraordinary feeling. Donors in studies report a boost in self-esteem, and 9 out of 10 say they would do it again.
A sense of community: In connecting with other donors online through communities like NKF’s Living Donation Community, I’ve been struck by how life changing the experience has felt for nearly all of us, even the few who have later had complications or whose recipient didn’t fare well for as long as expected.