The risks of donating a kidney
Many hospitals in America will find the most deserving recipient for a non-directed (aka altruistic, Good Samaritan, or anonymous) kidney donate a kidney donor, i.e. someone who just wants to help a person suffering from kidney disease, whether they know the person or not. You just contact the hospital and say that you would like to donate a kidney to help someone on the transplant waiting list.
The preliminary testing is usually stretched out over six months to a year (to be sure that you are not acting impulsively and doing something that you will later regret). Recovery takes about six weeks, although most patients are up walking by the second day after surgery. Your body functions perfectly well with only one kidney, and so it is unlikely that you will have any permanent side effects from having made the donation. You can go on to live a full and normal life.
The risks of donating a kidney are on a par with having a baby. About one in 3,000 donors will die (although that figure includes deaths in the early days of kidney transplants when the death rate was higher). We are not aware of ANY deaths from non-directed donors, because the standards for non-directed donations are much higher than for related donations. (Hospitals are often pressured to accept less than ideal donors from a kidney patient’s restricted list of willing friends or relatives.)
Most kidney disease strikes both kidneys simultaneously, so having only one kidney does not make one more likely to need a kidney, apart from traumatic injuries to the remaining kidney. Nevertheless, in America, if a kidney donor should later need a kidney themselves, priority is given to them for a transplant. Consequently, donating a kidney actually IMPROVES your protection against dying from kidney failure.
Some friends and I started learning this information about ten years ago. It wasn’t long before several of us were thinking seriously about donating a kidney to someone who needed it.