The name of a recent BWH event—“Finding A Living Donor: How on Earth Do I Do This?”—conveys the difficulties felt by many transplant candidates who are searching for a living kidney donor.
Last month, BWH’s Division of Transplant Surgery sought to make the process less overwhelming by offering helpful resources and education, as well as advice from kidney donors and recipients. Speakers covered a variety of topics, including the use of social media, letter-writing campaigns, kidney exchange programs and chains, and altruistic donation.
Transplant Surgery Chief Stefan G. Tullius, MD, PhD, shared the benefits of seeking a living donor as opposed to a deceased donor. With a living donor, the kidney lasts much longer, and transplant candidates’ wait time for a kidney can be reduced. Additionally, living donor kidneys lead to better outcomes 10 years after transplant surgery. Currently, there are about 6,500 registered living donors in the U.S., a fraction of the 90,000 candidates waiting for a kidney.
Kristi Sorrell Noone, of Westwood, Mass., was one of the donors who shared her personal experience at the event. Earlier this year, Noone donated a kidney to a man in New York as part of kidney chain 357—the country’s largest multi-hospital kidney transplant chain, which included four BWH patients. In return, Noone’s brother received a kidney from a matched donor.
“How many people in your social network know that a living donor is your best treatment option?” asked presenter James Rodrigue, PhD, a transplant psychologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Rodrigue explained that most people find it very challenging to ask someone to consider being a living donor; however, informing friends and loved ones about their need—and putting people at ease and letting them know it’s OK to say “no”—can be a helpful approach. “You’re much more likely to find a living donor when more people know you need one.”