Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

A Remarkable Gift: This holiday season, consider becoming a living donor.

Illustration by Aron Rook.

The holidays, as we know, are a time for giving.

That’s why, for my December column, I decided to focus on what is one of the greatest gifts a person can give—becoming a living donor. By choosing to be a living donor, you can save someone’s life without impacting your own quality of life.

Living donors can donate many organs, including a part of their pancreas, lung, liver or intestine. Healthy people of a certain age also can donate stem cells, and, of course, blood and platelets.

One of the greatest needs is for kidneys. There are more than 93,000 people in need of a kidney transplant in the United States. Of those, over 5,000 will die each year because a donor is not found. The wait for a deceased donor’s kidney could be five years and, in some states, it is closer to 10 years.

So what are the advantages of receiving a kidney from a living donor?

  • There is no need to wait for a deceased donor kidney to become available (most living transplants take place three months after the evaluation process begins).
  • The kidney usually begins to work immediately, even in the operating room.
  • There are fewer episodes of rejection. As a result, living donor kidneys tend to last longer.
  • Depending on the genetic match, the recipient may be able to take fewer immunosuppressive drugs, therefore minimizing possible side effects.
  • Living kidney donor transplants can be scheduled. This allows both the donor and the recipient to plan for absences from work and family responsibilities.


Is It Safe?

Living kidney donation is a safe procedure for the donors.

Most people live a long and healthy life with one kidney. At UPMC Pinnacle, our donors are screened and tested thoroughly before donation to ensure that removing a kidney will not affect their health in any way.

Immediately after kidney donation, the donor’s kidney function is temporarily reduced by half until the remaining kidney compensates for the missing kidney. This takes about two to four weeks. After the initial phase of recovery, the donor’s kidney function will be 60 to 80 percent of function prior to donation, which is more than adequate to support the donor’s needs.

Donors are also not responsible for any expenses related to the testing, surgery or hospitalization for living donation.

During this season of giving, I hope that you’ll consider the tremendous gift of becoming a living donor.

To learn more about becoming a living donor and UPMC Pinnacle’s transplant program, visit

Harold C. Yang, M.D., Ph.D., is a surgeon with UPMC Pinnacle.

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