In the UK, living kidney transplants have been performed since 1960 and around 1,100 such operations are carried out each year, with a very high success rate.
200 people are currently on the waiting list for a kidney transplant in Nottingham, and the average waiting time for an adult is two years.
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH) is calling for more people across the city to consider making a life-changing donation in the week of World Kidney Day (14 March).
NUH is one of the largest organ donor hospitals, with over 1,700 organ donations made each year mainly from deceased donors. The Nottingham Kidney Transplant Unit is based at Nottingham City Hospital.
Kidneys are the most common organ donated by a living person and around a third of all kidney transplants in the UK are from living donors.
A living kidney donor is a person who gives one of their healthy kidneys to someone who requires a transplant. Living donations usually involve a friend or family choosing to donate their kidney to a loved one, and are a life-changing operation for someone with kidney disease, whether or not they are having dialysis treatment.
Karen Stopper, Living Donor Co-ordinator at NUH, said: “Living donors often come forward as they want to see their loved one well again and that’s their main priority. People will choose to donate as they want their family member to have a better quality of life, rather than them being hooked up to a machine for up to seven times a week.
“Kidney disease has a huge impact on the whole family in so many ways, and a live donor can help to minimise this for the patient, and for themselves.”
Non-directed altruistic donations, alternatively, happen when someone volunteers to donate their kidney to an unknown individual who is waiting for a transplant.
Karen said: “Altruistic donors are fairly common in Nottingham. When I started my job nine years ago, we had one or two a year, but now we’re in double figures.”
“Altruistic donors often just want to give back whilst they’re fit and well and can go on living life as they did before, knowing that they’ve helped someone.”
A successful transplant from a living donor is the best treatment option available for most people with kidney disease and offers a better chance of success, as living donor kidneys often last longer than those from deceased donors.
Dr McHaffie, Consultant Transplant Nephrologist at NUH, said: “A transplant from a living donor is the best option for a potential transplant recipient as it gives the best outcome, and we make it as safe as possible. Any risk is minimised by careful pre-assessment.”
When asked about the process of live donation at NUH, Karen said: “When live donors come forward, it’s all about them and making sure that we do them no harm. When they contact us and if they want to start testing to see if they can donate, there’s no rush. We work around the donor’s home and work life to make sure that they’re eligible and that they’re comfortable with the process and we can go from there. It’s a very detailed process, with one team designated to the donor and one for the recipient.
“Donors are followed up for life and will receive an annual review to make sure that they’re okay after donating and they can always phone if there’s a problem in between. Donors will always have a connection with the renal unit should they need it.”
NUH is also involved with the UK Living Kidney Sharing Scheme (UKLKSS), which helps to pair ‘difficult to match’ patients with friends or family who want to donate a kidney, but aren’t compatible by blood group or tissue type.
Patients entering the sharing scheme with their friend or family member may be matched with another pair in the scheme, so that each recipient receives a kidney from the other’s friend or family member. This programme increases the number of people who can receive kidney transplants from living donors and helps reduce the number of patients that are waiting a long time for a transplant.
Altruistic donations can start chains of up to three transplants through the UK’s kidney sharing schemes.
Those interested in becoming a live donor can find out more here.