Living organ donation presents gift of life

By Mary Hiller

National Kidney Foundation of Michigan Communications Coordinator

OSCEOLA COUNTY — There are currently more than 3,500 patients in Michigan waiting for a life-saving organ transplant, and 2,800 of these patients are waiting for a kidney.

Most people think of organ donation as an end-of-life decision, but it is possible to donate organs another way. During National Donate Life Month this April, the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan strives to educate the public about the importance of living organ donation.

Living organ donation takes place when a living person donates an organ (or part of an organ) for transplantation to another person. Typically, the living donor is a family member or is emotionally connected to the recipient, but occasionally the living donor is a complete stranger. Living donor transplantations have been taking place for more than 60 years, and thanks to improved medications, a genetic link between the donor and recipient is no longer required to ensure a successful transplant. In 2015, nearly 30,000 patients began new lives thanks to organ transplants from 8,500 deceased and 6,000 living donors.

Kidneys are most commonly given by a living donor because the majority of people are born with two and there is an extreme need — more than 100,000 people are waiting for a kidney nationwide. Parts of other organs including the lung, liver and pancreas are now being transplanted from living donors. To donate a kidney, you must be in good health and have normal kidney function.

“Living donation is the ultimate gift of life,” said Dr. Art Franke, chief science officer of the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan. “The selfless act by the donor gives the recipient a ‘second chance’ to live a fulfilling life.”

There are several advantages to have a kidney transplant performed from a living donor compared to transplants performed from deceased donors:

  • Some living donor transplants are done between family members who are genetically similar. A better genetic match lessens the risk of rejection.
  • A kidney from a living donor usually functions immediately, because the kidney is out of the body for a very short time. Some deceased donor kidneys do not function immediately, and as a result, the patient may require dialysis until the kidney starts to function.
  • Potential donors can be tested ahead of time to find the donor who is most compatible with the recipient. The transplant can take place at a time convenient for both the donor and recipient.

According to Donate Life America, “the average waiting time for a kidney from a deceased donor is three to five years. A kidney from a living donor offers patients an alternative to years of dialysis and time on the national transplant waiting list.”

Though not everyone qualifies medically to be a living organ donor, that doesn’t count someone out to be a donor at the time of death. Anyone is a potential donor despite age or medical conditions, and most major religions approve of organ, tissue and eye donation and consider it to be a selfless act of compassion. Your decision to leave a legacy by donating your organs in the future could save up to eight lives.

Being a living organ donor lends the opportunity to make better lives possible. To learn more about living donation, visit To register your decision to save lives, visit the Gift of Life Michigan at or call (800) 482-4881.