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Living Kidney Donor Program

A woman sits on a balcony overlooking hills.
Since 1964, the Kidney Transplant Program at UK HealthCare has performed more than 2,500 kidney transplants. In that time, we’ve developed a reputation for excellence in kidney transplantation by consistently meeting national outcomes.

Kidney transplantation is an excellent option for patients with kidney disease who want to live a life free of dialysis. Donor kidneys come from two sources. The first source is from deceased donors, or individuals who have passed away but still have viable, healthy organs.

Living donation is the second source of donor kidneys and is an excellent alternative to deceased donation. The wait time for transplant can be a matter of weeks rather than years, and kidneys from living donors tend to work better and last longer than kidneys from deceased donors.

  • Becoming a living donor

    Sharing the “gift of life” is a selfless act that can have a profound impact on another person. The UK Transplant Center is committed to guiding potential living donors through the process which includes the following:

    • A thorough evaluation to determine if donation is a safe option for the living donor.
    • Support from a multidisciplinary medical team guiding evaluation, surgery and follow-up care.

    Note: The results of the evaluation and any discussions with doctors, nurses and social workers will be protected as private medical information and will be kept completely confidential from the potential recipient.

    Living donor qualifications

    A compatible living donor must:

    • Be at least 18 years old.
    • Be in excellent overall health.
    • Have above average kidney function.
    • Have a willingness to help.

    A living donor does not have to be a blood relative. A spouse, friend, coworker or anyone who is willing to help may be eligible to donate.

    Living donor process

    To be considered as a living donor, the potential donor should first contact the UK Transplant Living Donor Program at 859-323-2467 or you may complete either the online donor referral form or the the PDF donor evaluation form. Completed forms may be returned via email to jill.marion@uky.edu, faxed to 859-257-8966, or mailed to UK Healthcare Living Donor Program, 740 S Limestone, K315, Lexington, KY 40536.

    Living kidney donor referral form »

    Living kidney donor evaluation form »

    Evaluation

    The potential living donor will complete a medical questionnaire to be reviewed by the Living Donor Committee. If approved to move forward, the potential donor will be scheduled for a thorough medical evaluation and screening process including lab work, testing, social work, and medical and surgical consultations. Once established criteria are met and final approval is given by the Committee,
    the living donor transplant operation will be scheduled at a time best suited for the recipient and the donor.

    Surgery

    The living donor will be admitted to the hospital on the day of transplant and can usually go home two to three days after the procedure. The donor surgeon uses a laparoscopic technique with small incisions, shortening the recovery time in the hospital and generally allowing the living donor to return to work within four to six weeks.

    Cost

    There is no cost to the donor or the donor’s insurance for medical care. The donor will be followed by the UK Transplant Center for two years after donation at no cost.

  • Kidney transplant recipients

    Kidney patients interested in seeking a living donor may not know where to begin. The following suggestions may help.

    Where to begin

    Make a list of possible donors. The list can include significant others, family, friends, neighbors, church members and coworkers. At this stage, do not worry about who might say “yes” or “no.”

    Enlist a family member or friend to ask potential donors about their willingness to donate. This person will educate people about kidney disease and living donor kidney transplant. The patient’s Transplant Coordinator can provide more information for the person in this role.

    Approaching a potential donor

    There are several options to consider when approaching a potential donor. Choose the options most suitable to you or talk to your Transplant Coordinator to discuss the most effective course of action.

    • Make a personal request. A direct and honest approach is often the most effective.
    • Host an event or create a social media campaign to raise awareness about the need for kidney transplant.
    • Create an email or mailing about the need for transplant, giving potential donors private time to learn about the donation process and to discuss with their loved ones.
    • Ask a church leader to make an announcement to his/her congregation.

    Some words to get you started

    “My doctor tells me my kidney function has worsened and I’m going to need a kidney transplant. A transplant from a living donor can happen much sooner and is usually more successful than receiving a kidney from a deceased donor. Would you be willing
    to read some materials about living donation or talk to a living donor coordinator to learn more? This is a difficult topic for me to talk about and I want you to know that whatever your answer, it will not affect our relationship.”

    You might also discuss the advantages of living donation with your potential donor, including:

    • Shorter waiting time.
    • An elective surgery that can be scheduled at a convenient time.
    • Living donor kidneys generally work better than kidneys from deceased donors.
    • The laparoscopic donor operation offers a shorter hospital stay and a quicker recovery time than previous methods.
  • Meet Elaine Milem, a transplant recipient who now helps others

    As a UK Transplant Center patient navigator, Elaine Milem helps patients through the difficult process of preparing for and undergoing kidney transplants.

    The unique part? Milem is a two-time kidney recipient herself, so she understands exactly what her patients are going through.