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Finding a living donor

What to say to possible donors

Whether it’s with 1 person or many, how you talk with people about living donation makes a difference. Here are some tips to help you do it right.

Set the stage

  • Pick the right person to talk to
  • Pick a good time and place
  • Tell the person how long you think the conversation will be

Start the conversation

  1. Ask how the other person is feeling and if it is a good time for a serious conversation
  2. Begin telling the person about your situation
    • What kidney disease is and when you were diagnosed
    • Your current health and how you have been feeling
    • The type of dialysis you are on and the way it has changed your life
  3. Ask the person what they know about kidney transplant and living donation
  4. Explain that you are wait listed for a kidney transplant
    • Describe the transplant waitlist and how many people are waiting
    • Describe risks, benefits, and process of deceased donor transplants
    • Describe the risks, benefits, and process of living donor transplants
  5. Explain why you want a living donor transplant, instead of a kidney from a donor who has died

Gather information

  1. Ask questions to check the other person’s understanding. Some good questions to ask are:
    • What do you think of the pros and cons?
    • What concerns do you have?
  2. Ask questions to check your understanding of the person’s thoughts on living donation. Some good questions to ask are:
    • What I think I hear you saying is [then summarize what you think they said]. Am I understanding correctly?
    • So in other words, you think that [then summarize what you think they said]. Is that right?

End the conversation

  1. Ask if they have any questions and answer them as well as you can
  2. Offer thanks, even if you didn’t get the answer you want
  3. Summarize what the person decided and what the next steps are
  4. Say a warm goodbye with a handshake or hug

Sample letters or emails

Writing a letter can be hard, so here are 2 sample letters to start from:

There is something I need to tell you

There is something I need to ask you. It’s something pretty big and it’s really hard for me to ask. So, before you say anything, please hear me out, OK?

I’d like to ask you to think about being a living donor for me. I don’t want you to give me an answer right now, just think about it. I have some information here and if, after you have looked it over, you have questions or would like more information, I can get you in contact with someone at the transplant clinic.

So, I would really appreciate it if you just took the time to learn more about donating and consider the possibility.

And, I want you to know that it’s okay if you say ‘no’. I understand that this is a big request and it’s not for everyone. I don’t want you to feel pressured to do this, or feel bad if you don’t think it’s the right thing for you. If it turns out that this is not something you’re comfortable with, maybe you can help me think of ways to find a living donor.

I also don’t want us or our relationship to change because I asked this of you. I love you and value our relationship. This is why I am comfortable asking you to think about donating.

Ok, I’m done. Thanks for listening. What are you thinking right now?


Dear Family & Friends

This is a difficult letter to write, but because I value our relationship, I feel comfortable sending it to you.

As you may or may not know, I have kidney disease, and my kidneys have stopped working. My doctors want me to consider getting a kidney transplant, which will give me my best chance of living a long time. It would also give me more freedom and energy.

I could wait for a kidney from a donor who has died, but it takes a long time. There are almost 100,000 people on the waitlist already, and not very many people die in a way that lets them donate. I may have to spend 4-8 years on the waitlist before I get a kidney that will work for me.

I’m glad to have dialysis to keep me alive while I wait, but it takes a lot of time and can cause more health problems. So, I’m hoping that I can get a transplant sooner rather than later.

I could get a transplant within the next year if someone I know decides to donate a kidney to me. Living donors don’t have to be biologically related to me, but our blood types would need to work well together. Also, living donors can’t donate if they have diabetes, kidney problems, or high blood pressure that can’t be lowered with medicine.

I’m asking for your help to spread the word. If you want to help share my need for a donor with your friends and family, I would appreciate it. It’s very hard to bring this up with people myself. It’s possible that one of them, or someone they know, would want to help me or someone else. If you want to learn more, visit

Finally, I want to ask you to consider becoming a donor for me. I know this is a personal decision that isn’t right for everyone.

If you want to learn more, the website I mentioned above has videos of actual living donors telling their stories. Please know that if you don’t want to consider living donation, I understand and honor your decision. I promise it won’t change our relationship or how I feel about you.If you want more information about living donation, please contact the [Transplant Center] living kidney donor coordinator at [Phone Number]. They’ll be glad to answer your questions.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and for caring about me.

[Your signature]

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