Organ donation

Telling family, friends and other people about donating a kidney

Some people we interviewed had donated a kidney to a family member, such as a child, parent or sibling. The whole family knew about the ill health of the recipient and were supportive of the donor. Harmanjit said that both she and her sister offered to donate a kidney to their father as they did not want to see him having to go on dialysis. Margo said donating a kidney to her brother was ‘a big deal’ for the whole family and they were all waiting at home after she and her brother came back from the hospital.
 
It can be difficult telling family, friends and other people if a donor is choosing to donate to someone outside the family or to someone completely anonymous, as in the case of non-directed (anonymous) donation. Several people discussed their thoughts with family before going ahead with tests. Once family members were reassured that the risk to their relative’s health was low, they were often supportive.
Understandably, some family members were concerned and wondered if their relative was doing the right thing.
After assessment and approval, some people said that they told a few close friends and colleagues that needed to know. Mostly, friends were supportive, though some were surprised and negative. One woman said one of her friends was ‘antagonistic’ and another was very much against her donating.
Donors also had to tell their employers because they would need to take time off work (See Work and finances). When they were on sick leave, other colleagues often also found out because the donor was not at work. Colleagues were often inspired and supportive. Some, however, did not seem to know what to say and had been very ‘silent’.
 
Some of the people we interviewed chose not to tell anyone outside the family until after surgery. Maggie wanted to keep her donation quiet but, because she was one of the first people in the UK to donate to an anonymous recipient, she was contacted by the press several months before her operation. Like some other non-directed (anonymous) donors, she was wary of telling other people in case it was misinterpreted. One donor said it could be misconstrued as ‘showing off’. However, most of the donors we talked to were keen to raise awareness of living donation and organ donation. In order to do this, some of the non-directed (anonymous) donors had taken part in newspaper and television interviews about their experiences.
 
A few people had got together with other living donors and formed a new organisation specifically to raise awareness of living kidney donation.
All of the donors we interviewed were fit and healthy again after surgery. Donating a kidney had not affected their relationships with other family members. Their relatives were often proud of them and pleased that they and the recipient were both well (see The recipient).

Last reviewed May 2016.

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