Kidney Transplants and Donation: Having a Tough Conversation that Could Save a Life
Mar 14, 2019
March is National Kidney Month. Although rare in children compared to adults, there are many causes of kidney disease in children. Sometimes children are born with a condition that causes kidney failure (also known as renal failure) and other times children can develop conditions during childhood or adolescence.
This is one reason why routine screening by your child’s primary care physician is important. Early detection of chronic disease may help to prevent progression to later stages of disease. There are five different stages/levels of chronic kidney disease. Stage 5, also known as end - stage renal (kidney) disease will require kidney transplant. Children with end-stage renal disease will need dialysis until they are able to receive a kidney transplant. There are two types of kidney transplant: living donor and deceased donor.
What if I’m told my child may need a transplant?
You will be provided with information about the different types of transplants and everything you should expect so that you are well-prepared. Before your child will undergo the transplant, he or she will receive a medical evaluation and orientation. Your child will be placed on a wait list for a deceased donor, unless he or she has an approved living donor.
What is Living Donor (LD) Transplant?
LD Transplant is when another adult donates one of their kidneys to another individual in need. Most people are born with two kidneys, but can live full lives with only one.
How do I talk to my family and friends about kidney transplant and considering screening to become a donor?
Most parents feel overwhelmed and nervous to bring up transplant around others. It is important for caregivers to know that others want to help, but they cannot help if you do not let them know how. Sharing the story of your child’s need for a transplant may feel awkward at first, so take some time to think about what you are comfortable sharing and how you want to present your story to others. Sometimes just talking about the need is enough for others to ask how they can help.
Consider all social outlets available for sharing your story. This could be something as widespread as Facebook or something closer to home. For example, social media or “going viral” online may feel overwhelming, but sharing information in your church bulletin or through a local club may feel more personal and safe.
Common Myths of Living Donation
The donor needs to be related to the recipient. Not true! Donors can be unrelated friends, neighbors, or even strangers! The donor’s blood type must match the recipient’s blood type to start the work up.
Living Donors will need to take medicine or alter their diet for the rest of their lives. In most cases, living donors will not need to take any additional medication. Like everyone, all living donors will be encouraged to eat a healthy diet and be physically active.
Living Donors will receive compensation for donating their kidney. Living donors cannot receive any type of monetary compensation. However, their medical expenses and follow-up visits will be paid for by the recipient’s insurance. There are resources available for donors that are reviewed during the donor’s medical work up and evaluation.
I don’t know anyone with kidney disease in need of a transplant, but I want to help.
Ashley is the clinical social worker for the section of Nephrology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She earned her bachelor and master’s degrees from The Ohio State University. Ashley is a member of the Society of Transplant Social Workers.
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