Bob’s Anonymous Donation in Canada
In April 2010 I traveled across Canada to donate one of my kidneys anonymously to a man I have yet to meet. Particularly wonderful about my experience was that my donation triggered three other transplant operations that took place simultaneously with mine across the country. This experience was so wonderful, in all respects, that in December 2010 I applied to donate a part of my liver also anonymously. After many visits and tests to a hospital in another city I was scheduled for liver donation on May 18, 2011 with a matching recipient. Unfortunately, one of my last tests I resulted in my disqualification from donating my liver due to the riskiness of the operation given my liver anatomy. I continue to look for ways to promote living organ donation. Your website is a terrific tool to help promote others to investigate and possibly donate an organ. Donating my kidney was relatively easy in all respects and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Here is my donation story.
I learned about living organ donation while donating blood at a local clinic in 2009. I came across a living organ donation brochure and read it. I had been looking to do something more fulfilling with my life for some time. I recognized that living organ donation could be a way of doing this. I contacted different living organ donation programs and investigated the different types of living organ donation with them and over the internet. After several months of research and considering my personal situation (ie. Healthy, far from rich but relatively financially secure, grown children, no debts, a supportive employer), with the support of my family, I decided to apply to donate a kidney anonymously. Having had two cousins who many years ago received kidney transplants through deceased donation I was particularly interested in the kidney donation program.
A few weeks later I was contacted by the living kidney donation program coordinator for an initial meeting. A few days later I began the first of many tests and interviews to be conducted over the next eights months. There were various blood, heart and urine tests, questionnaires, and evaluations and meetings with a psychiatrist, social worker and medical specialists. Some tests turned up unexpected problems that were ultimately resolved through additional testing or more in depth evaluation by other medical experts.
I was asked by the living donor coordinator if I would be interested in having my name added to a paired exchange program database. This program has some incredible life saving and other benefits. Kidney Paired Donation is a program which assists donor/recipient pairs who are incompatible or poorly matched with each other to find another donor/recipient pair(s) with whom they can exchange kidneys to enable a more favorable compatibility and allow a transplant to take place. The paired exchange program can also cause a domino effect which results in multiple transplants occurring simultaneously. Given the power of the paired exchange program I asked to be added to it.
Five months into the donation process I was informed that a potential match for my kidney had been found. My potential kidney recipient lived in a city a great distance from me. For very good reasons kidney transplant surgery usually takes place in the recipient’s city. If I was to donate I would be required to fly there for the surgery. Expenses for such things as gas, airline tickets and hotel can be significant. However, most organ donor programs have an associated expense reimbursement program for organ donors to defray many of the expenses. I learned that virtually all of my expenses would be covered.
After eight months of tests, interviews and evaluations I flew to Vancouver, the recipient’s city, from my home in Ottawa and donated my kidney on April 28, 2010. My surgery went extremely well. Thanks to the paired exchange program what was particularly wonderful and gratifying about my kidney donation was that it resulted in three other kidney transplants. The other transplants occurred in three different cities across the country simultaneously with my surgery. After my surgery I experienced some relatively minor discomfort related to nausea and pain. On discharge from hospital a few days later I was pleased to learn that the recipient of my kidney was doing very well. Due to the anonymous nature of my donation the recipient would not know who I was nor would I know who the recipient was. Anonymity is required for a number of very good reasons. After spending a few more days regaining my strength at a beautiful hotel I boarded a plane for the long flight home. I spent several wonderful months recovering then returned to full time employment. Other than the minor scars left from the surgery life with one kidney has been no different for me.
My kidney surgery and recovery went very well, without complication. So well in fact that after a period of time I began to consider the possibility of other living organ donation. After investigation and with the support of my family, I applied to donate my liver, again anonymously. My application was accepted. I began months of tests, evaluations and meetings travelling to another city for this. With the majority of my tests completed I was given a surgery date. A few weeks before my scheduled surgery date I was very disappointed to receive a call from the transplant coordinator informing me that one of my last tests disqualified me from liver donation. The coordinator provided me a considerate, full explanation of the reasons for my disqualification that I disappointingly fully understood and accepted. The health and welfare of donors is paramount to organ donation programs, where there is undue risk to the donor surgery does not proceed. Disappointed with this result I continue to search for other ways that I may improve organ donation statistics.
I sincerely hope that this submission helps to encourage people to investigate organ donation and where possible register for deceased organ donation, apply for living organ donation, or if that is not possible support these worthwhile programs in other ways. There are few more fulfilling experiences in life.
Here are some pictures of my kidney donation experience from preop to one month post op.
April 28, 2010, heading in for kidney surgery
My extracted kidney to be transplanted
Incisions from laparoscopic kidney surgery
Doctor, two nurses and myself at hospital discharge, 5 days after surgery, May 2, 2010
Flying back home after surgery 10 days later, May 7, 2010
Recovering at my cottage one month later, May 28, 2010