Nebraska’s West Schomer has no regrets over his decision to become a living-kidney donor.
As chronicled in Nebraska Today, the University of Nebraska State Museum exhibit and design technician donated a kidney to longtime friend and brother-in-law Dustin Curry in November 2015. As he did then, Schomer said the gift was truly no big deal.
“It’s just history at this point,” Schomer said. “I’ve never had regrets about my decision. Donating is not something you should just jump into, but I would recommend it to anyone.”
A living donation offers a variety of benefits to a recipient, including:
Shortening time on the national donation waiting list;
Optimizing transplant success through planned surgery; and
Living donor kidneys often function longer than those from a deceased donor.
Schomer said the overall evaluation process is rigorous and designed to give the donor every opportunity to opt out and not be pressured into the decision.
“They constantly remind you that you can drop out at any time, even right before you go under the knife,” Schomer said. “It’s a very big decision and everyone wants to be sure you are comfortable with your choice.”
All potential donors must make the final decision voluntarily without coercion or inducement; be healthy with normal kidney function; and be more than 19 years of age.
Steps in the rigorous donor evaluation process include:
Explanation of the overall process;
Review of the donor’s medical history;
Blood tests to determine blood type and compatibility with potential recipients;
Several blood and urine tests, along with other diagnostic tests to determine normal kidney function as well as the overall health of a potential donor; and
Meetings with an independent donor advocate, surgeon, nephrologist and members of the transplant team to discuss possible risks, benefits and desire to proceed with the donation.
Overall, donors face minimal risk of major or long-term health problems. Donors also can expect minimal out-of-pocket expenses or insurance impacts as costs are often covered by the recipient’s insurance.
Recovery is different for donors and recipients. The recipient is often back up on their feet a day or so after the operation. Donors face different challenges as the body adapts from two functioning organs to a single kidney.
“I never had major surgery before the donation, so I felt recovery was tough,” Schomer said. “It took me about three days and then I was again a functioning human being.”
Schomer said he was in the hospital for four or five days and returned to work in about six weeks. Three months later, weight-lifting restrictions were lifted and Schomer was back to 100 percent.
“The university and our staff here at the museum was very supportive of my decision,” Schomer said. “It would have been difficult to follow through with the donation without their understanding and support.”
Donors also receive support and are elevated on the federal transplant list if kidney function is reduced in the future.
“If I could do it again, I would in a heartbeat,” Schomer said. “Like I said, I have no regrets. And, if it’s something others are able to do and feel comfortable with it, I’d tell them to go for it.”