[Note: This entry was actually written in Sep 2009. I changed the posting date to keep my blog entries in chronological order.]

by George Taniwaki

I’ve decided to donate one of my kidneys to a person who needs it. Unlike most people who make this decision, I’m not helping a relative, a friend, or a neighbor. Instead, I’m going to donate it to a stranger, called an nondirected or altruistic donation.

It’s a big decision and not one I’ve taken lightly. However, I’ve done my research and feel confident that the benefits vastly outweigh the risks. The recipient of the kidney will probably be able to stop dialysis, which will greatly improve his/her quality of life and quite possibly will save his/her life. Meanwhile, the risks to my own health are acceptable.

I’ve just signed up with two organizations, the National Kidney Registry in New York and the Alliance for Paired Donation in Ohio that will coordinate with participating hospitals to match donors with recipients.

Two factors have led me to my decision to donate a kidney. First, I’ve known several people who have donated a kidney, who have needed a kidney, or have worked for the National Kidney Foundation. I’ll talk about their experiences in future posts.

Second, I’ve been a blood donor, and more recently a plasma donor, for most of my adult life. I’m comfortable with donating a part of my body to a stranger to save their life. I’m not concerned about the discomfort or pain caused by having surgery, or the potential adverse effects. And I’m willing to accept the loss of income (I don’t get paid sick time) while I stay home during my recovery.

An altruistic donor (right) meets the recipient after surgery. Photo from Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center (Denver)

For more information on becoming a kidney donor, see my Kidney donor guide.

[Update: The donor shown above did not donate anonymously. He met and selected his recipient via MatchingDonors, a service featured in a Sept 2009 blog post.]