Emotional adjustments

In thinking about donating a kidney, you may have many questions. The most obvious is how you and the recipient will feel before and after surgery. But there are other areas you need to consider: your relationship with the recipient, what the rest of your family thinks about the donation, and the surgery's effect on your current home, and job responsibilities. 

Questions you may have include:

  • "I really want to help, but how can I really do this?"
  • "Will the doctor find something wrong during the tests?"
  • "How uncomfortable or painful are the tests?"
  • "What will it be like to have surgery and be in the hospital?"
  • "How painful is surgery and how will I handle it?"
  • "What if the recipient rejects my kidney?"
  • "How will I feel if the recipient gets sick after surgery?"
  • "How will donation affect my family and me?"
  • "Can I afford to take time off work (two to four weeks)?"

Your feelings and concerns are real. You will need to take time to be honest about your feelings and to get information to answer your questions.   

The kidney recipient's recovery

Before donating, think about how you would feel if the recipient had problems. Many transplant recipients have some problems after surgery. Most problems are minor and easily treated. Some problems are serious and may even result in kidney rejection.

Know that what happens with the recipient's recovery after surgery is not in your control.

You may be concerned about how the recipient takes care of himself or herself after surgery. You may feel like the recipient "owes" you for your donation. You may unknowingly place extra pressure on him or her to be healthy to not disappoint you.

Feelings of loss and/or depression

You may find yourself feeling sad or depressed after surgery. Feelings of loss and grief after donation are usually mild and go away during recovery.

If you feel sad for two weeks or longer, lose interest in day-to-day activities, have changes in appetite and weight, have sleep problems (too much or too little), feel tired and have little energy, or feel hopeless, you may have depression. Please call your transplant coordinator or social worker for help.

Physical adjustments

Donating a kidney should not have a negative effect on your life.

  • Your remaining kidney will do the work of both, removing waste products and extra fluid from your blood. You are not at an increased risk of kidney disease or problems.
  • After surgery you will be able to return to your regular lifestyle.
  • Your long-term health is not affected.
  • Other than taking pain medicine for a short time after surgery, you will not need to take any other medicines or follow a special diet.
  • You may father or have children. (If you are a woman and get pregnant after surgery, tell your doctor that you have one kidney.)

After kidney donation surgery:

  • You will need to keep all lab, clinic and hospital visits.
  • You will need to watch your weight, blood pressure and temperature.
  • You will need to get regular exercise.

Source: Allina Health Patient Education, Kidney Transplant Information for Recipients and Donors, renal_ahc_93498
Reviewed By: Allina Patient Education experts, including the Transplantation Department of Abbott Northwestern Hospital
First Published: 05/15/2009
Last Reviewed: 05/15/2009

  • Your transplant coordinator can arrange a meeting with a previous donor. You may find this meeting helpful.
  • The recipient must show he or she is able to follow up with the medical care before the transplant occurs.
Did you know?
It is not possible to put your kidney back in if the recipient rejects it. The rejection process destroys the kidney and it would no longer work.