overview of kidney donation
give the gift of a second chance
At any given time, over 100,000 Americans are waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant. Of those, more than 95,000 need a kidney, but just over 19,000 people receive one each year. And because so few Americans register to become organ donors, every day, 12 people die waiting for a kidney.
When you make the decision to become an organ donor, you are giving families the most extraordinary gift imaginable: the gift of life.
If you are considering becoming a kidney donor, you have two options.
You can donate a kidney after your life has ended - a gift commonly referred to as a deceased donation.
You can give the gift of life right now by giving a kidney today, and becoming a living donor.
The above data is approximate, based on data provided by OPTN.
register to become a donor
get started now
Become a Deceased Donor
If you're an Illinois resident, registering to give organs and/or tissue once your life has ended is easy.
Simply visit the Illinois LifeGoesOn website and fill out the required information. You will then be enrolled in the state's online donor database.
You can also declare your intentions on your driver's license.
Become a Living Donor
There are several paths you can take to become a living donor:
If you are donating to someone you know: you should contact the transplant center where the patient is listed and coordinate directly with their care team.
If you would like to donate to an anonymous recipient: you may do so by contacting a local Transplant Center. For information on Illinois transplant centers, please click below.
You can also donate anonymously by: enrolling with the National Kidney Registry, an organization that works to match donors with patients nation-wide.
being a living donor: fast facts
learn more about giving
Deciding to give a kidney, an organ, and/or tissue after your life has ended is, in some respects, a relatively straight-forward prospect. But there can be numerous factors at play in the decision to donate a kidney now, and become a living donor.
As you contemplate becoming a living donor, the following facts may help you construct your plan. Please note: many of the items below include links for more information; these will take you to our national office's Kidney A - Z Health Guide.
What is living donation?
Who can be a living kidney donor?
To donate a kidney, you must be in good physical and mental health. As a general rule, you should be 18 years or older. You must also have normal kidney function.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure
Having a serious mental health condition that requires treatment may also prevent you from being a donor
What are the advantages of living donation over deceased donation?
Some living donor transplants are done between family members who are genetically similar. A better genetic match lessens the risk of rejection.
A kidney from a living donor usually functions immediately, because the kidney is out of the body for a very short time. Some deceased donor kidneys do not function immediately, and as a result, the patient may require dialysis until the kidney starts to function.
Potential donors can be tested ahead of time to find the donor who is most compatible with the recipient. The transplant can take place at a time convenient for both the donor and recipient.
Are there different types of living donation?
Are transplants from living donors always successful?
How long does a transplanted kidney last?
What do I need to consider before donating an organ?
Who pays for living donation?
Evaluation to determine if the person is a good candidate for living donation
Lost wages during the donor's recovery. Time off from work is not covered by Medicare or private insurance. However, donors may be eligible for sick leave, state disability and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Travel expenses. If you are traveling to a transplant hospital away from home, you can incur expenses for travel, lodging expenses during evaluation and recovery, phone calls to home, childcare, etc. Some transplant hospitals offer free or low-cost hospitality houses for you and your family–be sure to ask about your options.
Expenses for treatment of unrelated conditions that are discovered during the evaluation process
Some follow-up expenses may also not be covered, so it's important to discuss these matters with the transplant center. The financial counselor and/or transplant social worker at the hospital can answer any questions you have about the cost of donation.
Will my health or life insurance coverage be affected by donation?
What does the surgery involve?
If I'm a donor, what is my post-surgery recovery time?
How will donating a kidney affect my life and health?
the big ask, the big give
a conversation can save a life
The NKFI is proud to support The Big Ask, The Big Give, a patient service initiative managed by our national office focused on connecting kidney patients and potential organ donors with resources, information, and tangible support.
Too many people languish on the years-long kidney waitlist and don't get transplants simply because they don't know how to ask their friends, loved ones, or communities for help. The Big Ask, The Big Give aims to help patients begin that conversation, and find living donors.
Visit the Big Ask, Big Give website to learn more about living kidney donations, hear stories from people whose lives have been transformed by transplants, and connect with information specialists.
Need help starting the conversation?
Call our national office's patient hotline, NKF Cares:
1 (855) 653 - 2273
NKF Cares is a free, confidential hotline with trained professionals
ready to answer your questions or concerns
read more about topics related to living kidney donation
To learn more about topics related to living kidney donations, please visit our national office's Kidney A - Z Health Guide by clicking the links below.
NKFI kidney health resources
The information shared on this website has been reviewed by staff at the New York City headquarters of the National Kidney Foundation. Please note: material contained here are intended solely for reference. This material does not constitute medical advice; it is intended for informational purposes only. If you feel you need professional medical care, please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.