A matched pair of organs about the size of two fists, the kidneys work to keep waste out of the body, manage minerals in the blood, and are one of the most common organs to be donated by living donors.
March is National Kidney Month. To celebrate, we sat down with recent kidney donor Elizabeth Lobdell to learn more about the donation process.
Elite: Tell us a little about yourself. What first made you think of becoming a kidney donor?
Elizabeth: I was in college when I first heard about living organ donation, and in the back of my mind I thought, “Maybe one day, that could be me.” That may have been God planting the seed, preparing me for the day when it would actually happen.
Later, I met a wonderful person who’s passion she summed up in the phrase “Live life to the fullest.” She was such a light to everyone she met, despite fighting a losing battle with kidney cancer. Because of her, I was able to give someone else the ability to continue to live their life to the fullest!
Elite: How did you hear about this particular need?
Elizabeth: I learned that my college friend Dan needed a kidney through a mutual friend of ours. He’d posted on Facebook that Dan had just undergone surgery in which both of his kidneys had been removed and was looking for a living donor. I thought, why not try? What’s the worst that could happen, they tell me no?
To my great surprise, I learned that Dan had been looking for a living donor for seven years. Over 45 people had tried, but none proved to be a match. Fortunately, I happened to be the perfect match and an answer to a lot of prayers!
Elite: What steps did you need to go through to be approved as a donor?
Elizabeth: There’s a basic intake process measuring general health. If you have high blood pressure, or if high blood pressure runs in your family, that’s almost a guaranteed dismissal, since high blood pressure can give you kidney disease.
After that, I had several online education meetings and appointments. Holding most of the meetings online was helpful, because it took what would normally be two days of in-person testing and meetings down to one.
On the day I did go in for in-person testing I had lab work, an EKG, and CT scans. I also met with a nutritionist, social worker, nurses, and surgeons. Once all of that was completed, the donor team and recipient team had a meeting to decide whether or not it was the best fit for living donation.
Elite: Was there anything about the kidney donation process that surprised you?
Elizabeth: How long it takes! Patience is critical. I started the process in February 2020 and donated in December 2020. That might not sound long, but the ideal situation would have had me donating in the summer, not in the middle of winter. COVID-19 prolonged the process, since no donations were allowed from March–June 2020.
Elite: What’s one thing you’d like people to understand about kidney donation that’s not common knowledge?
Elizabeth: Currently, 90,000 people in the United States are on the national transplant waiting list for a kidney. The average wait time is three to five years. After donation, the remaining kidney grows and enlarges, doing the work of two healthy kidneys.
The other question I often get is “what have you had to change, now that you only have one kidney?” The answer is simple: nothing. I continue to live as I did before!
Nursing CE course: Pharmacological Management of Chronic Kidney Disease