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The long-term follow-up of donors varies according to the transplant centre; in some it can be for life, in others it can be anything from 10 years to a single post-operative clinic visit. The surgical follow-up always occurs, to make sure that the wound has healed nicely, that the donor is fully recovered from the operation and that the remaining kidney is working well.

After donating a kidney, some people feel a sense of anticlimax; so much time has been spent thinking and worrying about the operation that life may seem a little empty afterwards. Also, they may feel sad and have an unconscious resentment toward the recipient, if they feel unsupported by relatives and hospital staff after surgery, as attention is shifted to the recipient.

This kind of feeling can be more pronounced if the recipient does poorly or rejects the organ. In this case, counselling facilities are provided for the donor in some centres.

It is very important to maintain a normal, relaxed attitude towards the recipient and the rest of the family. Patients who receive kidneys are always grateful, but they are unable to repay the gift. So it is important to avoid reminding them of their ‘debt’.

The success of the transplant is judged by how well the transplanted kidney works and how quickly the patient returns to full health. The first three months after a transplant are when most problems occur. Once these are over, both the donor and the recipient can settle back into a normal routine, quietly secure in the knowledge that a wonderful gift has been given and received.

Depending on their type of work, a donor can expect to be at home recuperating after the operation for 2-12 weeks. Sometimes, this can be a frustrating time, wanting to return to a normal life, but without the energy and overall health. Patience is required, as is support from other family members.

If the donor regularly sees the recipient, this can be an added source of satisfaction; watching their return to good health can ease some of the possible negative feelings.

Other aspects of life can return to normal as soon as the donor feels up to it.

Driving

The DVLA in Swansea has no hard and fast rules with regard to starting to drive again. In the main, if they feel okay and their GP agrees to it, a donor can return to driving when they feel capable, usually after 4-6 weeks. However, they must be aware that long journeys could prove problematic, and that they ‘shouldn’t overdo things’. Car insurance should be checked, as the length after the operation that you are not insured to drive varies depending on your policy.

Sexual relationships

There is no standard typical period before sexual intercourse can be considered. Donors should be able to resume their usual sexual relationships as soon as they feel comfortable. It may take a few months before normal activities can be undertaken, but this depends on the individual and their recuperation.

Exercise

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is as important after donation as beforehand. Any post-donation exercise programme should begin slowly with the length of time spent exercising, and the effort involved, being increased over a period of time.

How do I get more information or volunteering as a donor

If you have a loved one with kidney failure who must have, or will need, a transplant, and you want to help - whether you are genetically related or not - please ask to speak to the transplant coordinator, transplant surgeon or kidney specialist of the kidney unit which is treating them.
Transplant coordinators are responsible for all liaison between members of the transplant team and for the administration of a transplant operation. An important part of their work is to keep patients and their families informed during the preparation and progress of the operation. They have very wide experience and will be happy to spend time discussing the question with you before arranging a preliminary meeting with the transplant surgeon or kidney specialist.
Further information about local transplant services and how these operate is available from:

NHS Blood and Transplant
Organ Donation and Transplantation Directorate
Fox Den Road
Stoke Gifford
BRISTOL
BS34 8RR

Telephone 0300 123 23 23
Contact page Click here

You can also join when you are :

  • Registering for a driving licence
  • Applying for a Boots Advantage card
  • Registering at a GP Surgery
  • Registering for a European Health
  • Insurance Card (EHIC)

When you register IT IS IMPORTANT that you tell those closest to you about your decision

The National Kidney Federation cannot accept responsibility for information provided. The above is for guidance only. Patients are advised to seek further information from their own doctor.