How to ask for a living kidney donation

AskForKidneyBlogRTFImageLori stands beside the organ donation message she wrote on her own vehicle. She got a kidney from a donor in March.

Being diagnosed with kidney failure is no picnic. Medications, dialysis, the physical and emotional exhaustion… it’s not a burden you would put on anyone.

It’s all the more difficult if you move into end-stage kidney disease and need a kidney transplant. The best option is to receive one from a living donor, because there’s a greater likelihood of a successful outcome.

But that’s a HUGE ask. In fact, the thought of asking someone for their organs is so overwhelming that more than half of all people in need of a kidney transplant don’t even try. They don’t ask one person.

But your friends and family members are often eager to help you spread the word, or consider donation themselves.

We want to help you get started, so we’ve put together this checklist with help from our transplant and organ donation experts:

1. Share the news with your inner circle.

It’s easier to start with people who are closest to you. If you feel you can’t find the words for a face-to-face conversation, an email can help you organize your thoughts.

  • Explain your diagnosis, and the story that leads up to it if that helps.
  • Explain why a kidney from a living donor is your best option.
  • Let them know that you understand living donation may not be an option for everyone, and acknowledge that your relationship will not change if they choose not to donate.

2. Choose a champion.

Find a family member or close friend who can be your Living Kidney Donor Champion.

  • Your champion will be your voice, helping you spread the word about your need for a donor kidney and sharing with others how the donation process works.
  • Your champion can be the point of contact for anyone who wants more information about the process. That buffer can make it easier for people to come forward and ask for more information.

3. Gather contact lists and details for potential donors.

  • Make a list of all family members, friends and co-workers to contact. Prioritize family first; they have the best chance of being matches.
  • Create a personalized living donor card for you and your champion to share with people. Include your name, blood type, living donor champion’s contact information, and the Web address to Ohio State’s living donor program. Add a photo of yourself for a personal touch.
  • Write a brief summary of your story and include information from your donor card. If you wrote an email to your inner circle, you can start there.

4. Start recruiting!

You’ve shared your news, chosen your champion, and got your materials in order. Now it’s time to get the word out. The sooner, the better.

  • Get social. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social networks make it easy to connect with friends (and friends of friends). They can help extend your reach much farther than you could on your own.
  • Create a flier to post in business around your neighborhood. Be sure to include your name, the brief summary of your story, and the details from your living donor card.
  • Give family and friends information to post in bulletins at places of worship or in club newsletters.
  • Think outside the box! Ask friends to link to your Facebook page in their email signature. Reach out to your local radio stations and ask if they can share your story. You can even write a donor request on your back windshield! It works!
"We decided it was time to let the cat out of the bag." Jason talks about how finally deciding to get the word out and using social media connected him with a living kidney donor.

5. Don’t stop until you cross the finish line.

  • When potential donors express interest, ask if they will consider taking a blood test to determine if they can donate to you. Even if they’re not a match for you, a paired exchange program is another option.
  • Keep a list of all potential donors and don’t stop recruiting until a week out from surgery. Have as many potential donors as possible willing to be tested in case of an unforeseeable change with your primary donor.

6. Stay positive!

It may get discouraging at times, and you may face setbacks, but keep going. Your donor is out there. Keep in mind that there’s no “right way” to communicate your need.

And remember, you don’t have to suffer in silence with kidney failure. People will help you. Ask!