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If I Donate a Kidney, Will I Have to Travel to the Transplant Recipient’s Center?

John T. Nguyen RN, CPTC, Living Donor Nurse Coordinator

If you are considering becoming a living kidney donor, you may be wondering where you will undergo your donation surgery and if you will have to travel to the center where the recipient of the kidney will have the transplant.

If you donate through the National Kidney Registry’s remote donation network, you can complete the donation—from pre-donation testing through your donation surgery—at an NKR transplant center close to you. Your kidney is then shipped to the transplant center where the recipient is being transplanted, which could be in a different city or even across the country.

Why Choose Remote Donation?

With the remote donation program, donors can stay close to home not only for testing and surgery but also for the recovery process, eliminating the need for time-consuming and expensive air travel and hotel stays.

This is especially important during the recovery process because you will need to refrain from flying for a week after the surgery and long road trips can be uncomfortable immediately after the surgery. Using the remote donation option lets you recover in familiar surroundings without unnecessary travel.  This also makes it easier for your family and friends to help care for you after surgery

Types of Remote Donation

There are three types of remote donation:

  1. Remote standard voucher donation: You donate according to your schedule while providing a voucher for your friend or family member who is in imminent need of a transplant. The voucher can be redeemed when your friend or family member is ready for transplant surgery. In addition to the voucher holder in imminent need, the donor can also name five family members as backup voucher holders should the voucher holder in imminent need receive a deceased donor transplant.
  2. Remote paired donation: You donate your kidney to another recipient in exchange for a compatible kidney for your friend or family member. Both surgeries typically occur around the same day at your respective transplant centers.  
  3. Remote direct donation: You donate directly to your friend or family member, with the surgeries taking place at your respective transplant centers. 

Remote standard voucher donation is quickly becoming the preferred method of remote donation due to convenience (the donor can donate when their schedule permits) and the potential to improve the match between the donor and the recipient, which usually results in better transplant outcomes and longer-lasting transplants.

How Remote Donation Works

First, you must register as a donor at a transplant center that participates in the remote donation network. More than 100 transplant centers in 36 states nationwide offer remote donation. To get started, register as a donor through the NKR then select a center that participates in the remote donation network.

You will undergo all testing at your chosen center. If all goes well and you are approved for surgery, you will complete the donation procedure at your selected center.

Immediately after the surgery, the National Kidney Registry will deliver the kidney to the recipient’s center. To ensure safe delivery, the National Kidney Registry uses advanced GPS technology and our Failsafe software to monitor every shipped kidney.

Once you are released from the hospital after the surgery, you can go back home to recover.

To find a center that participates in the remote donation network, visit the NKR center map or visit kidneytransplantcenters.org.

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