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The University of Kansas Health System ranked nationally in 8 specialties on U.S. News & World Report's 2017-18 Best Hospitals List

Living Kidney Donation: 'Ultimate Gift'

Published: 12/04/2015

Learn more about the living donor program at The University of Kansas HospitalKansas City, Kan. — More than 100,000 people in the U.S. are waiting for a kidney. With fewer than 20 percent of them receiving a transplant and wait lists continuing to grow, many of those in need – 12 people a day, in fact – die before a donor can be found.

One solution: kidney transplants from living donors. Amna Ilahe, MD, transplant nephrologist at The University of Kansas Hospital, calls it an excellent alternative, giving recipients longer, healthier lives while avoiding wait lists.

Nationwide, nearly a third of the 17,105 kidney transplants last year were from living donors. Our hospital's living kidney donor team, established just two years ago, already accounts for 20 percent of all the hospital's kidney transplants – 25 of 127 in 2014 and 22 of 105 so far this year.

Ilahe and transplant surgeon Sean Kumer, MD, spearhead the team, which includes a living donor coordinator, an independent living advocate and a social worker.

"The benefit of the living kidney donor program is recipients are able to lead a better quality of life off dialysis and have improved long-term outcomes than deceased donor kidney transplant recipient," said Ilahe. "The recipients of living donation have longer graft survival."

Any healthy adult can donate. Studies show donors lead healthy lives with normal life expectancies – their remaining kidney enlarges slightly to compensate. Physicians recommend they receive regular checkups and stay on top of any health concerns.

"We want people to know kidney donation is a safe option," said Ilahe. "And we are working hard to create more awareness."

She also hopes to increase awareness of a national paired kidney donation program, which matches pairs of medically able donors who are not a match due to blood type with similar pairs.

In addition to distributing marketing materials, the team works with Gift of Life and participates at the Kansas City Royals Organ Transplant and Donor Awareness Night at Kauffman Stadium.

"It's the ultimate gift," said Kumer. "I think a lot more people would donate if they thought about it in terms of donating and saving their own family member or someone else's family member."

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