Experiences of living kidney donors during the donation process

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Abstract

Background

The shortage of organs from deceased donors has led to more living donation. Furthermore, immunological developments have made it possible to perform kidney transplantation despite preformed antibodies against the donor organ. This has led to a broader recruitment base of living donors.

Objective

The objective was to investigate experiences and considerations on becoming, and during the process of being, a living kidney donor.

Materials and Methods:

Interviews and participant observation were conducted before, during and after the donation. Data were analysed in accordance with Ricoeur's theory of interpretation on three levels: naïve reading, structural analysis and critical interpretation and discussion. Eighteen potential donors over the age of 18 were included.

Results

Potential donors’ decision to donate was based on a desire to help the recipient. At all stages of the process, donors experienced joy, dilemmas, vulnerability and hope. Rejected donors experienced frustration and disappointment. The accepted donors experienced both joy and vulnerability. Interaction between the donor and the recipient and the relatives played a significant role. The transition from being a healthy individual to being a surgical patient was an overwhelming experience.

Conclusion

The process of donating a kidney and the return to everyday life involved significant experiences of joy, dilemmas, vulnerability and hope that influenced donors’ lives on physical, psychological and social levels. Support and clear communication from the health professionals was essential.

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