Frequently asked questions

Potential donors frequently ask us questions on various topics, questions which come up again and again. We’ve concentrated the questions here and have turned to our experts for answers. Thanks to our Transplant Coordinators:  Ms. Rachel Mikowitz and Ms. Anat Briger from Beilinson Hospital, Ms. Paulina Katz from Ichilov Hospital, Ms. Esti Katz from Rambam Hospital, and Ms. Netta Malka from Hadasa Ein Kerem Hospital.

How long does it take from the beginning of the procedure until the operation?
The average time is three to four months, depending on the number of tests the donor must undergo. It also depends on how efficient the donor is in carrying out the tasks that must be accomplished. In an emergency, the process can be completed within one month.

How is it decided which kidney to donate? 
Generally the left kidney is removed because its blood vessels are longer. If there is an anatomical problem with the left one, then the right one it removed.

I live in the far North/South and it is hard for me to reach the Transplant Centers. What do I do?
The Ministry of Health reimburses transportation expenses up to NIS 2,700, without having to present receipts.

Will I have any monetary loss from my donation?
In order to prevent any monetary loss, the Ministry of Health conducts a program of reimbursing organ donors for their various expenses. (See the page Kidney donor entitlements for details.)

Will I have a problem buying life/health/nursing care insurance after the transplant?
We recommend purchasing the insurance before the transplant. The National Transplant Center covers 36 months of all health insurance policies. Additional information on the Kidney donor entitlements page.

How long is the hospitalization? And how long is recovery?
Hospitalization – normally four days. Recovery – one to two months depending on the recovery rate.

I really don’t like pain. How painful is it?
After surgery there is moderate pain similar to an appendectomy. It depends on one’s pain threshold. There are efficient pain reducers and you will feel better every day.

How big will my scar be?
In laparoscopic surgery, the incision will be horizontal, about ten centimeters long, and located similar to a C-section. In exceptional circumstances, standard surgery incision is almost 20 centimeters.

Will I have to follow a certain diet after my donation?
No. But it is advisable in general to eat a healthful diet and drink regularly to safeguard the remaining kidney. Avoid dehydration!

Will I be able to drink alcoholic beverages/coffee/cola after my donation?
Kidney donors have no eating restrictions. They can eat and drink like any normal person. (There are certain beverages which nobody should drink to excess…)

Are there medical restrictions after my donation?
Do not lift weights greater than 5 kilo during the first month. Any sporting activities should be resumed gradually. Extreme sports are more dangerous. You should be careful to drink more than usual and not reach dehydration. During the first year, avoid complete fasting.

Will I need home assistance after the surgery?
After any surgery there is a period of recuperation during which you should preserve your strength. You should use assistance during the initial period.

When can I go back to work?
One generally gets between a month to six weeks sick leave. It is advisable to use that period to regain your strength. Of course it depends on the nature of your work. If your job does not require physical exertion you can return earlier. Some donors return to work after two weeks. Pay attention to your own needs and don’t tax yourself.

When can I return to a job which requires great physical exertion?
It is recommended not lifting weights above 20 kilo for three months after the surgery. Lifting such heavy objects can cause a hernia at the point of the incision.

I used to run marathons. Can I go back to running?
Yes. You can gradually resume running. Avoid running for the first month and a half. After that you can gradually return, but you must be careful to avoid dehydration.

After my donation, can I resume taking pain reducers?
Yes, except for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID).

Are there any special medical or drug-related restrictions?
We advise informing your doctor before any medical treatment that you are a kidney donor. In particular one should avoid drugs containing NSAID, and inform the doctor before undergoing any imaging tests involving iodine, such as C.T.

Can I give birth after my donation?
Certainly. There is a slight risk of complications such as hypertension or early delivery. And you should wait at least one year after the donation before becoming pregnant. See two scientific articles: “Pregnancy Outcomes after Kidney Donation” and “Pregnancy and Birth after Kidney Donation: the Norwegian Experience”..

I have a six month old baby. Will I be able to take care of him after the donation?
That should not be a problem. Lifting more than five kilo is restricted, which could present a slight problem. Another consideration is that pregnancy after kidney donation is slightly riskier.

When will I meet my recipient? Do I have to meet him?
It is possible to meet the recipient after the donor has been approved, either before or after the transplant. It depends on the will of the donor. Meeting before approval creates an unnecessary feeling of obligation. It is better not to remain anonymous because the recipient feels a strong need to meet the donor and express his gratitude. It is good to give him that opportunity.

I want to choose my recipient. Is that possible?
Of course you can choose the profile of the recipient, but not a specific person. Privacy considerations prevent exposing the identities of potential recipients before each donor. Someone who is granting a gift is entitled to his preference as to the recipient of that gift. You can ask the staff of Matnat Chaim to match you with a recipient of a certain age, sex, population group, or other such preference.

Is there a danger that the kidney will be rejected if the recipient has elevated antibodies?
If a donor/recipient pair has been approved, that means that the recipient does not have antibodies to that donor. Patients with elevated antibodies sometimes receive treatment to reduce the antibody level before the transplant in order to increase the probability of success.

After I donate my kidney can I also donate a lobe of my liver, or platelets, or bone marrow?
There is no problem with platelets or bone marrow. Liver donation is a serious problem of its own.

I want to donate to my sister, but our blood types do not match. What can be done?
There is a test which determines if a recipient can accept a kidney from a donor with a different blood type. If the recipient has antibodies against the donor’s blood type then it is possible to perform a cross-donation. However, especially in the case of a patient with blood type O, there is a preference to check is he can receive from a donor with a different blood type and undergo treatments to reduce the antibodies.

I have a child with kidney problems. I am afraid that when he will need a transplant, I will be too old to donate to him. What can be done?
First thing- the child should be under close supervision. The child could deteriorate within two years or could never need a transplant at all. Each case must be handled individually. In any case some kidney problems are hereditary, so the father may not be a suitable donor. If the father donates a kidney to a non-relative, then his own first degree relations gain priority in the queue for a transplant.

If a relative has only one kidney, does that increase the danger that he will need a transplant?
The answer is not clear. The benefit of a transplant must be considered carefully. Generally speaking, someone born with only one kidney is not necessarily at risk of renal failure. One should consult with transplant experts.

Is it possible that no recipient at all will be found for my kidney?
No. Unfortunately there are many patients waiting for transplants, so there is always a match with someone, but never with all of them.

Can some background kidney disease damage the transplanted kidney?
There are a few diseases that can affect the transplanted kidney, but their return is prevented by treatments which the patient receives. In any event the recipient is saved from many years of dialysis.

How long will my kidney function in the recipient?
On average, 18 years. According to research, kidneys from living donors last longer than from cadavers.

I am already 18 years old. Why am I not allowed to donate? I really want to!
Living for 60-70 years without only one kidney is a long time. Your future health condition cannot be foreseen. In addition, for women it is preferable that she donate only after one or two births. After kidney donation pregnancy is higher risk. If the recipient is a family member, donation at such a young age might be considered.

I am 25 and I know that I do not want children. Can I donate?
Each case of kidney donation must be considered individually. There is no way of knowing what will be in the future.

Can a family member of a dialysis patient donate? Are they at higher risk?
A family member of a dialysis patient must undergo rigorous testing to rule out the possibility that they may suffer from the same condition or that it is hereditary or genetic. If that is ruled out, and he passes all the tests that any donor must take, then he can donate. First preference is always donation by a family member.

I very much want to donate to my father, but he refuses. What can be done?
There is nothing more natural than a son donating his kidney to his father. It is the fulfilment of the Divine commandment “Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother”. But the father’s refusal is also understandable because he is always used to giving to his son and not taking from him. With all that, we must try to convince the father, because unless some medical consideration prevents it, we should give the son the chance to properly honor his father. In extreme cases it is possible to donate to the father without him knowing the identity of the donor.

I am a teacher and can donate only during July. Is that possible?
We will make every effort. The surgery date is always set taking the donor’s wishes into consideration.

I have tried three times to quit smoking, all without success. Can I be a kidney donor?
In principle, a smoker can donate his kidney. There is no absolute medical indication against. The problem could be that smoking causes calcification of the blood vessels, including those of the kidney.

They said that I have to do a colonoscopy. I’m not ready for that!
It is necessary only after the age of 50. The test is strictly for the benefit of the donor.

I was disqualified because of hypertension. I tried to explain that my pressure goes up in the presence of doctors but they won’t accept that! At home my blood pressure is normal.
You should measure your pressure at home several times a day for 3 days. If it is still high, you can wear a blood pressure halter which measures continually over 24 hours. If it is normal, you can donate. Excitement sometimes increases blood pressure.

I am supposed to donate in two weeks, but suddenly I feel can that I can’t go through with it. Help!!!
You can withdraw from the procedure at any stage, even up to the operating room door. You have every right to change your mind. It is perfectly understandable to get “cold feet”. If you need assistance and encouragement, please turn to the staff and volunteers of Matnat Chaim.

My parents are against this sort of thing. I prefer to keep it a secret from them. Is that feasible?
Many donors in the past have chosen not to inform their parents, especially if they are older, in order not to disturb their composure. There have been those who shared the news with their parents on the day after the operation, when the donor appeared happy and smiling before them. Almost always the parents’ hearts are full of worry before the surgery and full of pride after, when they realise that they have nurtured a child who can rise to such heights of kindness. It must be emphasized that the child is no longer under the custody of the parents and is capable of making his own independent decisions.

When should I tell my children about my donation? I don’t want to frighten them.
It depends on the child’s age and level of understanding. Adult children should be informed at least during the weeks before surgery when intensive tests being done so that they don’t think you are sick, God forbid. It is possible to open the subject to preliminary discussion with the children so the whole procedure becomes a meaningful family experience. Young children should be informed a few days before that their parent will be away and soon return home for a period of recuperation, but not from some disease. If the parents are secure and relaxed and the child does not sense tension between them over the procedure, then the child will also be calm and happy and even feel pride in his parents.

I am getting a lot of negative reactions from my surroundings and I am beginning to think I made a mistake. Help me.
If your resolve is being weakened by those reactions, it is a sign that part of you is still having doubts. So take time out from the procedure and try to get to the bottom of your feelings. In any event you should fortify yourself with the facts. It is not really such a complicated matter. Speak with other donors. If you expect such objections from your surroundings, perhaps it is best not to inform them. Try to reach the finish line with feelings of happiness and security, calmness and firm belief.

In light of the latest research, which data about kidney donors do you examine in order to reduce the risk to a minimum?
Our primary goal is to safeguard the donor from any emotional or physical harm. So the donor is subjected to many medical tests. The results of one test may require another test so the procedure is different and unpredictable from donor to donor. The donor undergoes psycho-sociological evaluations to prevent emotional harm. Only when we are sure that we will not cause any harm to the donor is he approved for donation. Of course it is difficult to predict the future, so even marginal results with the slightest doubt may disqualify a donor. They still get credit for a mitzvah!