Living organ donors make possible roughly 6,000 transplants every year. John Friedewald, MD, Medical Director of kidney and pancreas transplantation at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, helps decode some of the myths surrounding becoming a living organ donor and reveals just how much of an impact these individuals have made.
Myth: I can’t donate while I’m living.
“A lot of people are familiar with donating organs through the National Donate Life Registry when you die, but in fact living donors exist, too. You can donate one of your kidneys or part of your liver while you are alive,” says Friedewald.
The most commonly donated organ from a living donor is the kidney, and a transplant is a preferred treatment option over dialysis for kidney failure. Currently, more than 100,000 people are on the waiting list for a kidney transplant.
Myth: Don’t I need my liver to live?
“The liver is extremely unique in the fact that it can regenerate itself,” says Friedewald. It only takes a small portion to donate, as it will regenerate and grow to size. The small piece is then transplanted and can grow into a healthy, functioning liver within a very short period of time.
Myth: It’s risky to donate.
As a potential donor, you’ll go through a thorough evaluation to determine the health of your organs. The donation procedure is conducted using a minimally invasive approach that typically results in less pain, a shorter hospital stay and a faster recovery.
“In healthy individuals, the risks are fairly minimal while the benefits are immeasurable,” says Friedewald.
Myth: I have to know my donor.
An increasingly popular form of living donation is called non‐directed organ donation, in which people donate organs as a humanitarian gesture, without a specific recipient in mind. This match is based on compatibility by blood type. See how one good Samaritan’s act of kindness sparked a chain of organ donations here.
Myth: One person can’t make a difference.
Living donors and their recipients reaffirm the impact you can make in the lives of others. The Northwestern Medicine Kovler Organ Transplantation Center is the longest continual provider of organ transplantation in Chicago and has provided new organs for more than 6,000 people. Join us in celebrating these donors’ act of selflessness and, if you’re an organ donor or recipient, connect with others for guidance, support and reliable information.