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What Happens After You Donate a Kidney and Receive a Voucher?

Larry McMahon, Director of Operations

The National Kidney Registry’s Voucher Program lets you donate a kidney according to your schedule while providing a voucher for your friend or family member who is in imminent need of a transplant.

Here’s how the voucher process works for donors:

  1. You schedule your donor surgery for a time period that is convenient for you.
  2. You designate your intended recipient as the person who will receive your voucher. You can also name five family members as backup voucher holders should the primary voucher holder not end up redeeming the voucher for a living donor transplant.
  3. You donate your kidney through an NKR transplant center that participates in the Voucher Program.
  4. When your intended recipient is ready for transplant surgery, they inform their transplant team that they are ready to redeem the voucher they received from your donation.
  5. Your intended recipient is activated in the NKR system and prioritized for a living donor kidney.
  6. The system immediately starts looking for a matching donor from among its pool of prospective donors who have registered with the system but have not yet donated. The NKR has the largest pool of donors in the United States across more than 100 transplant centers across the country.
  7. The NKR uses the latest DNA technology to find the best possible match for your intended recipient. The better the match, the better the chance the transplant will be successful and the longer the transplanted kidney is likely to last. In addition, with a better match, the transplant recipient may be able to take lower dosages of immunosuppressive medications.
  8. How long it takes to find a matching kidney depends on several factors, including blood type, tissue typing, and whether your intended recipient is sensitized, which means they have developed antibodies against specific human leukocyte antigens (HLAs) due to previous exposure to foreign tissue, such as from previous transplants, blood transfusions, or pregnancies. This can complicate the process of finding a compatible kidney for transplantation, as the presence of these antibodies increases the risk of organ rejection. Of the donor-recipient pairs who go through the NKR, more than 90% are matched within four months or less.
  9. When a match is found, the recipient is notified and they can schedule their transplant surgery.
  10. As a voucher donor, in the extremely rare case you ever need a kidney transplant in the future, you will be prioritized for a living donor transplant.

If you have specific questions about your voucher donation, please contact your transplant team.

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