For a family, the practical benefits can be as concrete as money in the bank. A spouse or parent whose ability to work was limited by dialysis for a long period may gradually be able to resume a full-time schedule–maybe even launch a new career. That can substantially improve the family’s ailing financial health as well.
For family caregivers, particularly, donating a kidney to the loved one you’ve been caring for can bring huge relief. The reduced stress and no doubt improved sleep can have considerable benefits in energy, mood, overall outlook, and, as a result, even job satisfaction.
Then there’s the extraordinary motivation of saving a loved one’s life or turning it around. A living donor I know who’d donated to her husband described her decision as “purely selfish. I wasn’t about to lose him,” she insisted. I know the feeling.
Seeing someone you love–in my case, my adult son–who’d been pale, weak, and listless for months or years gradually become their old self again is pretty powerful. And a donor whose partner wasn’t interested in intimacy during a long period of ill health may see a positive change in their relationship.
Want to improve your social life? Give your partner a kidney! Couples who have been uncomfortable for a long time about socializing—whether because of physical obstacles or simply due to the dialysis patient’s lack of energy or interest—may soon be able to enjoy evenings out with friends or family.
For anyone who donates a kidney—even to someone they don’t know—the benefits are nearly universal:
The feeling of personal gratification is indescribable. Knowing that you’ve helped give someone—anyone—a shot at a healthy, productive life—is an extraordinary feeling. Living donors in studies report a boost in self-esteem, and 9 out of 10 say they would do it again. Through donor-support groups I’m active in on Facebook, I’ve been struck by how life changing the experience has felt for most of us, including the few who have later had complications or whose recipient didn’t fare well for as long as expected.
A fascinating journal article inspired this post. The researchers argue that for the above reasons and more, transplant centers considering a potential donor’s relative risk might do well to acknowledge and give weight to the undeniable tangible benefits for certain donors.
“Van Pilsum Rasmussen, S. E., M. Henderson, J. Kahn, and D. Segev. “Considering Tangible Benefit for Interdependent Donors: Extending a Risk–Benefit Framework in Donor Selection.” American Journal of Transplantation 17, no. 10 (Oct. 2017): 2567-2571.
Carol Offen, Contributor
Carol Offen, co-author of The Insider’s Guide to Living Kidney Donation, is a writer, editor, and donation advocate. Her varied career has included turns as a freelance writer for major publications, including Vogue, Esquire, and Family Circle; an author; a book editor; and an editor of health-related materials for a nonprofit research institute.
In 2006 she donated her kidney to her adult son and has been passionate about encouraging living donation ever since. She has written numerous articles and blog posts including for her blog, Could You Be a Kidney Donor? What to Expect If You Give the Greatest Gift. Offen was the lead author of a “Patients’ Foreword” for a major 2021 textbook for transplant professionals, Living Kidney Donation. As a National Kidney Foundation advocate and UNOS Ambassador, she’s lobbied members of Congress and state legislators to advance support and protections for living donors and kidney patients. Born and raised in New York City, since 1985 she has lived in Carrboro, North Carolina, with her husband. Read her full bio.