In Zell Kravinsky’s opinion, if you don’t donate a kidney, you’re a murderer. This is rather a shocking statement by the millionaire, philanthropist and poet from Philadelphia. Yet, this is how the American wants to justifiably convince us to become honorary donors.

Kravinsky wants to encourage us to donate a kidney, lung or a part of our liver, and he himself serves as an example. In 2003, he went to the Albert Einstein Medical Center and disinterestedly donated his kidney to Donell Reid, a 29-year-old African-American girl who was a complete stranger to him.

Who can become a donor?

Transplantations from living donors are becoming increasingly popular around the world. In the USA and many EU countries, there are more kidney transplantations from living than from postmortem donors.

Unfortunately, such surgeries are still quite an unpopular practice in Poland. As little as 5 percent of the transplantations performed in our country are from living donors, which is ten times less than, for example, in Sweden. Here, in Poland, in 2012, there were 546 transplantations from postmortem, and only 65 from living donors.

In Poland, it is your next-of-kin that can become the donors – your siblings or parents, husband or wife. Also a common-law spouse can become a donor if he or she remains in a permanent relationship with the patient, but in such cases, you need a court decision. It is verified as to whether or not there are suspicions that under the veil of altruistic donation, the organ is actually being sold. This is because in Poland, there is no approval for commercialised donation.

Why transplantations from living donors?

Prof. Andrzej Chmura, Head of the Department of General and Transplant Surgery at the Medical University of Warsaw, highlights the fact that increasing the number of living donors in Poland would allow the shortening of the waiting list for the transplantation of this organ. What’s more, such surgeries are more successful.

“Recipients live with an organ from a living donor almost by half a term longer than those whose kidney was transplanted from a postmortem donor. On the average, it remains functional for 14-15 years, while kidneys from postmortem donors usually function for nine years," said prof. Wojciech Rowiński, national consultant in clinical transplantology.

Transplantations from living donors allow the performance of so-called “preemptive kidney transplantations". They are performed on people with end-stage renal disease who haven’t had dialysotherapy so far (the purification of blood from toxins). Although dialysotherapy saves the lives of people suffering from end-stage renal disease, it may cause complications (the longer the period of dialysotherapy, the higher the risk of complications).

Prof. Chmura said that according to the data we already have, in 80 percent of patients after transplantation who have never been subjected to dialysis before, their kidney functioned properly for ten years after the transplantation. In patients who have had dialysotherapy before the transplantation, only 40 percent of them still could live with the transplanted kidney 10 years following the surgery.

Is it safe to donate a kidney?

The removal of one kidney is safe for the donor. Indeed, life-threatening complications happen only once in every 80 thousand surgeries. This is unfortunately what happened to Przemysław Saleta, who in 2007 donated a kidney to his daughter Nicole. For some days after the surgery he had to be kept in an induced coma - but this was one of the rare exceptions from the rule.

The results of observations that have been made for more than 25 years in Sweden suggest that people who have donated a kidney tend to live even longer than the average lifespan of the overall population. This is possible because the person who is accepted as a donor has to be in good health, and after the surgery, he or she remains under continuing medical care for many years.

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