Charity Center

Transplant & Living Donation
Print Email

Kidney Transplant

A kidney transplant is a treatment option for some people with kidney failure.  The surgery takes a healthy kidney from one person and puts it into another person. Kidneys can come from a living donor or from someone who has died (deceased donor).  Kidneys from a person who has died are ‘allocated’ to patients who are on a national waiting list.

A kidney transplant is not a cure for kidney failure. Not every person who has kidney failure wants or would be a good candidate for a kidney transplant.

A patient should talk about transplant with his/her (kidney) doctor. Dialysis patients can also ask other members of their healthcare team like the nurse manager or social worker about how to get more information about kidney transplantation.  Patients with kidney failure who have not started dialysis can talk with their doctor or contact the transplant center directly.

In Wisconsin, there are three adult kidney transplant centers-two in Milwaukee and one in Madison.  Staff members at any of the transplant centers can answer questions about their program.

A transplant center will help a person understand if he/she would benefit from a kidney transplant and is healthy enough for surgery. This ‘pre-transplant’ evaluation may require several visits and can take weeks or months to complete.  Besides medical testing, exams and screenings, the transplant candidate meets with financial experts to discuss insurance and the other financial aspects of the process.  The patient can also expect to meet with other transplant staff members who will help the patient understand what will be required after the surgery to remain in the best health possible.

During the transplant evaluation, family members or other interested individuals may also want to find out more or be tested as potential living donors.  Each transplant center has a specific transplant coordinator who is responsible to answer questions for anyone who is interested in living donation.  This coordinator will not be the same transplant professional who is working with the patient.  All communication with the living donor coordinator is confidential and is not shared with the patient.

A patient may choose to register at multiple transplant centers. Each transplant center may require a separate medical evaluation even though a patient is already ‘listed’ at another center. 

It is important for anyone in the process of being evaluated for a transplant or who is on the transplant waiting list to notify the transplant center immediately if there are any changes in personal email, telephone number(s) or overall health. 

A kidney patient who is eligible for transplant and has a living donor will be able to schedule the transplant surgery.  The operation for both the potential recipient and the living donor happen at the same time.  One team of transplant surgeons removes the kidney from the donor and the other team of doctors prepares the kidney patient to receive the kidney.

The transplant surgery process begins a little differently if the person receives a kidney from a deceased donor.  The kidney patient on the ‘waiting list’ must be ready to go to the hospital as soon as his/her transplant coordinator tells them that a kidney is available.  After arriving at the hospital, there are some additional tests, including a blood test that will make sure the donated kidney is the right match for the potential recipient.

During the surgery, the new kidney is connected to the correct artery and vein as well as the bladder.  Usually, the person’s own kidneys (native kidneys) remain in the body.  The transplant surgeon will review the surgical process during the evaluation process and again before the actual surgery.  The transplant coordinator assigned to a patient is also a good resource and can answer patient questions.

The amount of time a person must remain in the hospital after surgery is different for each person.  Before leaving the hospital, recipients and living donors receive a list of the follow up appointments and information on how to contact transplant team members with questions or concerns.

You can see information on transplant centers throughout the country on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) web site. To view UNOS data, go to


Eighty-one percent (81%) of all of the people waiting for an organ in Wisconsin are waiting for a kidney.   Today, that means over 1,900 families are hoping that their loved one will receive the gift of life.

Living donors not only help one specific recipient who receives the kidney, but also reduces the wait for one additional person who is on the waiting list who does not have a living donor.

There are many reasons a person might want to offer to become a living kidney donor.    

Through donation, living donors can help to save the life of a patient. Living donors can help a recipient to improve his or her health or quality of life.

When a person receives a kidney from someone they know or someone who comes forward to donate a kidney, the surgery is scheduled at a mutually convenient time.  Receiving a kidney from a living donor may decrease the risk of rejection in the recipient since the evaluation process allows the opportunity to find a ‘better match’ for the recipient. Living donation also reduces the amount of time that the kidney is out of one body before it is transplanted into another body.

Each transplant center has specific criteria and requirements for the individuals who can be a living donor.  In general, an individual (18 years of age or older)who wants to become a living donor must be in good overall mental and physical health. 

Certain medical conditions may prevent a person from becoming a living kidney donor.  Since some health conditions/diseases could harm a transplant recipient, it is important that a potential living donor provide the transplant center with accurate answers when asked about conditions like blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, HIV, hepatitis, acute infections, or psychiatric conditions requiring treatment.

A person who wants to be a living donor for someone they know should first contact the potential recipient's transplant center.  Anyone who does not know a person who needs a kidney transplant, but wants to help, should contact a transplant center that is close to where he/she lives or works.

When contacting a transplant center, a potential living donor should ask to speak with the Living Donor Coordinator for kidney transplantation.  This person will be able to provide information about the criteria to become a living donor at that center.  Many times, an individual will be asked some basic questions over the telephone or mailed a packet of information with some survey questions to answer.  The living donor coordinator will help a potential living donor throughout the entire evaluation process.

After the initial contact with the transplant center, potential living donors who are eligible will then begin the psychosocial and medical evaluation process. The evaluation process helps the living donor understand all of the aspects of the donation and transplant process, including the risks and benefits.

This process is organized to protect the potential living donor and to make sure the transplant is as successful as possible.  The person who is a potential living donor has the right to delay or stop the evaluation process at any time. The reasons behind any decisions made by a potential living donor are kept confidential.

The transplant recipient’s insurance will cover the expenses of the living donor.  These include the tests required for the transplant evaluation, surgery, and some follow-up medical appointments.  It is important to understand if the recipient’s insurance will cover follow-up services if there are medical complications from the donation. Personal insurance may not cover these expenses. The recipient’s insurance coverage usually does not include reimbursement for travel, lodging, childcare, or lost wages. A living donor cannot be paid for the donation, but may receive reimbursement for certain expenses related to the donation process.

A person who volunteers to be a living donor for a specific person, may not always be compatible with that person, however, there may be other options to help that person to receive a kidney. These options could include paired exchange or through a larger kidney registry involving transplant centers in other parts of the state or country.  The transplant coordinator at the center can explain both of these options.

Sometimes, a person volunteers to donate his/her kidney to someone unknown to them.  This is called a non-directeddonation.  A recipient is matched with this donor based on medical compatibility.

It can be helpful for a potential living donor to talk to other people who have been living donors.  The National Kidney Foundation of Wisconsin offers various community educational sessions on living donation that include living donors, recipients and transplant coordinators.  Click here to view upcoming programs.

 There are other ways to help:

  1. Become a donor after death.  In Wisconsin, sign-up online at
  2. Donate bone marrow or blood.  For information about bone marrow or blood stem cell donation, contact the National Marrow Donor Program at (800) MARROW2 or  To donate blood, visit American Red Cross or BloodCenter of Wisconsin.
  3. Attend the Capital City 5K Run/Walk for Organ, Tissue and Eye Donation or Spotlight on Life.
  4. Making a direct financial contribution will also allow the National Kidney Foundation of Wisconsin to continue to offer its free educational programs like Living Well Before/After Transplant.
Last modified 2014-12-29 18:31:05