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Can I Become a Living Organ Donor Twice?

Taira Foster, Donor Search Expert Coach, double living donor

Becoming a living organ donor is a generous way to help someone lead a longer, healthier life. But did you know you can become a living donor not just once, but twice?

As a living donor, you can donate blood, bone marrow, and some other types of tissue, but when it comes to organs, there are only two that are commonly donated: the kidney and the liver. Why? In the case of the kidney, while people are born with two kidneys, most only need one to function, which means many people are walking around with an extra kidney they don’t need. In the case of the liver, when part of the liver is removed, it quickly grows back.

When you donate a kidney as a living donor, you donate the entire organ, which is then transplanted into someone whose kidneys have stopped working. In the case of the liver, only a segment of your liver is removed and transplanted into the recipient. After the donation surgery, the remaining liver cells immediately begin to regrow. In most cases, the liver is back to its original size within six to eight weeks.

In very rare cases, a living donor can donate one lobe of the lung, part of the pancreas, or part of the intestine, but these organs don’t regrow.

Double living donors are quite rare, possibly because not many people know you can become a living donor twice, and also because very few people become living liver donors—only 604 in 2022 and 9,579 since 1989. According to a recent study, there have been only 101 double living donors from 1981 to 2021, with no donor deaths reported and excellent outcomes for all recipients.

Many double living donors donate a kidney first, then decide to donate again because the experience was so positive. In 2020, Lori Seitz donated one of her kidneys to save the life of her brother. Immediately after the surgery, she told her family she wanted to donate again: this time, she would anonymously donate part of her liver to a stranger. Two years later, she became a living liver donor, and a portion of her liver was transplanted into an 8-month-old girl. Read Lori’s story here.

David Ashley, a National Kidney Registry-sponsored living donor athlete, donated a kidney to a former West Point classmate in January 2017, then donated part of his liver in 2020 to an anonymous recipient. After his liver donation, he went on to become the first living kidney donor, living liver donor, and double living organ donor to climb the tallest mountain on each of the seven continents, including Mount Everest, summiting them all within just one year. Read Dave’s story here.

If you are interested in becoming a kidney, liver, or double living donor, speak to your doctor or register as a donor with the National Kidney Registry.

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