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Being a living donor

What happens when you donate a kidney?

What changes will I have to make before the donation?

If you smoke or drink, some transplant programs may ask you to:

  • Stop smoking, especially if you have asthma or other health problems. This can be hard to do. Talk to your doctor about resources to help you stop. Chewing nicotine gum or any other nicotine methods to stop smoking will show up in your test and may stop you from donating. This means you’ll need to use other methods, such as therapy or medicines that don’t contain nicotine.
  • Stop drinking alcohol or drink less alcohol

Living donor team

icon for kidney transplant from live donor

The team that does your testing and interviews is called the living donor team. The living donor team will help guide you through your testing and interviews and teach you about the process of donating.

Your living donor team also protects you. They won’t let you donate if they think there are any large risks to you.

Your living donor team includes:

Independent living donor advocate

A person who protects your rights and health in the donation process


A kidney doctor to help you care for your kidneys before and after transplant

Living donor coordinator

Usually a nurse who works with you and your transplant team to manage your care

Financial coordinator

A person who helps you figure out your costs to donate, your insurance, and how you can afford any costs your insurance doesn’t cover


A person who helps you learn what to eat before and after your surgery to keep a healthy weight and have a better recovery from surgery

Donor surgeon

A doctor who will look at your test results to find out if donation is safe for you and perform the transplant surgery

Social worker

Trained professional who can help you and your family find resources, including making a financial plan and coping with any emotional and social challenges

Medical assistant

A trained technician who supports other healthcare staff on your team

Many members of your living donor team are part of the transplant center, but do not care for transplant patients. Some members work for the hospital and are there to assess and advocate for you.

You may feel overwhelmed with information or get tired of repeating your story, but each team member plays an important role in the process. They all have important information that you need to consider before you decide to donate.

You can change your mind for any reason any time in the process, even on the day of the surgery.

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