Organ Donation: How does it work?
The animated video below explains the transplant waiting list, how someone becomes a donor, the process of matching organs, and signing up to share the gift of life. For more information, please continue reading about living and deceased donation, below, and visit www.organdonor.gov.
The National Kidney Foundation of Illinois is a proud member of the Donate Life Illinois Coalition, a network of organizations that work together to promote organ, tissue and eye donation in our state.
For more information on becoming an organ donor, please continue reading about living and deceased donation:
A living donor is a person who gives one of their organs to another person while they are still alive.
A person can donate a kidney, part of their liver, part of their lungs, blood and bone marrow while still living. Living kidney donation is a common option for people in need of kidney transplants. In fact, about half of all transplanted kidneys come from living donors.
For more information on living kidney donation, please read the commonly asked questions below, then download this brochure for more in-depth responses from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).
Who can donate a kidney?
How are potential donors evaluated?
Blood test to check for blood type compatibility
Urine test to look at kidney function
Diagnostic testing (X-ray, EKG, CAT scan, etc.)
What are the risks for donors?
High blood pressure
Reduced kidney function
What is the surgery like for donors?
How long does it take for a donor to recover?
Who pays for the surgery?
How does someone start the process to donate a kidney?
City: Chicago, IL
Donation Date: September 29, 2016
His Story: Nearly a decade ago, Vikas’ younger brother Kunal was diagnosed with end stage renal disease. At the time, he and his family were not familiar with the disease. In the years since, they have become advocates, fighting to end kidney disease. When Kunal needed a transplant in 2008, their mother was a match and donated her kidney. On September 29, 2016 when another transplant was needed, Vikas volunteered but learned he was not a match. Happily, he was able to donate his kidney as part of a shared kidney exchange, saving even more lives!
Vikas says, “The organ donation has had a huge positive impact on my life. The whole process has truly shown me the meaning of the ‘gift of life.’ I have met so many courageous people fighting so hard to live a normal, healthy life. I now look forward to being part of a strong community of living donors. As a married father with three young children, I hope to set an example that will make them proud.”
Pictured l-r: Vikas and Kunal's father, Vikas, Kunal, older brother Vipin
City: Fairmount, IL
When did you donate? June 28, 2011
Who was your recipient? My daughter who has polycystic kidney disease.
What was it like donating a kidney? It was an emotional roller coaster at times, but recovery from surgery was pretty fast. I have absolutely no regrets and would do this all over again in a heartbeat!
How has your donation affected your life? Physically I don’t notice any changes in the way I feel. Emotionally—it’s wonderful knowing my daughter has a chance to live her life. It has made me more aware and grateful for those medical professionals who dedicate their lives to making this procedure possible.
City: Arlington Heights, IL
When did you donate? November 2009
Who was your recipient? Anonymous
What was it like donating a kidney? It was a fantastic experience! The transplant team at Mayo Clinic was welcoming, professional, and always put my well-being first. From the initial assessment and screenings, through post-op and recovery, I was always kept well informed. I was back to work 1 week after my donation.
How has your donation affected your life? Physically not at all – I’m an avid cyclist and hiker, and still going strong! Spiritually, I’m humbled and grateful that I was able to be the catalyst for a four-way kidney exchange that improved the quality of life for those in need of a kidney.
City: Brookfield, IL
When did you donate? October 22, 2009
Who was your recipient? My recipient was my tenant. He and his family had just moved into my home and a few weeks later, and I found out he needed a kidney transplant.
What was it like donating a kidney? I knew immediately that I was meant to do it. I never had a single doubt or any fear. It was one of the easiest things I have ever done.
How has your donation affected your life? Today I work with other living donors helping them through the process at the transplant center where my surgery took place. I also started a charitable foundation to help living donors recoup some of their lost wages while they recover from surgery.
A deceased donor is someone who donates their organs, tissue or eyes to be used for transplantation after they’ve died.
Fast Facts about Organ Donation
- More than 110,000 people are waiting for life-saving organ transplants in the U.S.
- More than 4,000 people in Illinois are waiting for kidney transplants.
- 18 people die every day because the organ they needed did not come in time.
- Another person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 10 minutes.
- One donor can save or improve the lives of 25 people.