Letting People Know You Need a Kidney
Your kidneys are in trouble. They aren’t filtering your blood like they should. You need a kidney transplant. With the deceased kidney transplant waiting list growing longer by the day, living donation is an increasingly viable popular option.
But how do you let people know of your need for a kidney? How do you talk about the subject in a way that might trigger someone’s desire to donate?
Being in need of an organ to sustain your life isn’t something that happens to you every day. Neither is asking someone to undergo surgery to give you one of their internal organs. So it’s understandable you may have trouble knowing where and how to start.
In this section, we’ll talk about some of the ways to have a conversation about the need for a kidney and some of the places you can look to uncover a potential candidate.
Before you begin talking to family and friends about your need for a kidney, make sure you’re prepared and well-educated on the subject. By educating yourself about living donation, you will be more knowledgeable about the transplant process overall and be better prepared to answer questions that might come up.
Sharing Your Story
Once you’re educated, you need to communicate your need to others. When talking with family and friends, be sure to speak from the heart. Your sincerity will help you connect emotionally with people who are hearing your story. If you aren’t sincere, people won’t take you seriously.
Depending on how you communicate with others, there will be varying degrees of knowledge about your kidney health. Some family members and friends may know about it because they have been following your health situation. But outside of that immediate circle, people simply may not know your kidneys are in trouble.
Because there is a natural apprehension about asking others to give and more so, when you are asking them literally to give a part of themselves, it’s best to start with your closest family and friends. You’ll have an easier time initiating the conversation and choosing the right words to express your emotions. Each conversation you have will make you more confident, and the information will begin to flow more easily.
If you’ve started sharing your story with your closest family and friends and haven’t found a compatible donor yet, turn this tight-knit circle of those who love you best into your own personal advocates. Ask them to share your story and need for a kidney with others in their lives. But first:
1. Educate them. Not just about your need for a kidney but about the entire living donation process. Send them to this website. Make sure they’re armed with all the information they’ll need to have an intelligent, passionate conversation with potential donors.
2. Prepare them to discuss their own reasons for not donating. Perhaps they’re not a match because of an incompatibility or a medical condition. No matter the reason, people will want to know why your closest family members and friends aren’t donating themselves.
3. Keep your advocates informed. Let them know how you are doing and how the process is going so they can pass along the information to others.
Remember, if someone volunteers to donate but is not a suitable candidate, there are “paired kidney donation” programs which match incompatible donors with others in need to facilitate more transplants. You can learn more about these programs in the “Paired Kidney Donations” section of the Kidney Transplant Navigator.
How Do You Ask Someone to Give You a Kidney?
Most potential recipients think that if someone wanted to give them a kidney, they would have offered. But on the flip side, no one can offer to help if they don’t know you are in need.
The first group to approach is your family and close friends. Tell them about your declining renal function and the best options for your outcome. Then let it soak in. Time is needed to absorb what you’ve told them. It’s usually not the best approach to come right out and ask if someone will give you a kidney. Everyone processes information differently, so let them react naturally. This takes the pressure off of actually asking someone for a kidney and allows you to just focus on your story and raising organ donation awareness. You never know. Perhaps your story (or the story you are telling on someone’s behalf) will strike a chord with some good-natured person who will want to offer the gift of life.
You’ll also want to practice responses to questions you may get from those hearing your story. Some may be questions of curiosity about the need and procedure. Others may be more directed toward your reason for asking them. Either way, the better educated you are and the more practice you have in answering these questions, the calmer you can remain if the question catches you off guard.
Staying On Task
The process of asking people for a kidney and enlisting advocates to help spread the message can create stress and be emotionally draining. But don’t let that deter you from your mission. Here are a couple of steps to help you stay on task.
- Enlist Help. As mentioned before, most people aren’t very comfortable asking someone to do something that could potentially cause them harm. Surround yourself with a core group (advocates) who know you well, care about you and understand what you are going through. Once you’ve provided the education they need on your situation and transplants in general, turn them loose. It’s much easier for someone who knows you and cares about you to do the asking than it is to do yourself.
- Create a List of Potential Donors. Make a list of everyone you know who may be a possible donor. Include family members, friends, work associates and individuals you know from professional organizations and your place of worship. Don’t worry about whether or not they will make a good candidate at this point. Just create a list.
- Review Your List. While looking at your overall list, make a note of the ones you consider healthy and potentially courageous. Maybe they’ve done something kind or noteworthy in the past for others. Maybe they are in a line of work that requires bravery or compassion. The people who have these characteristics may be predisposed to consider donating a kidney.
- Put Your People to Work. After you have refined your list, pick who you will talk to personally and assign your advocates to talk to specific people based on the qualities known of each. By matching a possible candidate with the right advocate, you can discuss the strategy of how you think they can best be approached.
- Spread the Word. You or your advocates may want to send an email or letter to everyone on the list you have created. Now is the time to share the personal story along with what you know about kidney transplants. This will enlighten others about the need for a living donor and help you expand the network of people who may be interesting in providing assistance.
- Partner with the Media. Some people work to engage the media (radio, television, newspaper) in some form to help raise awareness of their need for a kidney. The news organization will consider several things before covering the story. Much of that decision is based on the person in need and how dire or how moving their story. To get the most out of this approach, help the news organization understand how this story can impact their readers, viewers or listeners. You can outline your story by clearly and concisely communicating the circumstances that have brought you to where you are – and the benefit that will come if you were to receive a transplant. To increase your chances of getting a bite with this method, put something in writing which explains your situation. You can then send this to media outlets in your community for consideration. If you don’t think you can write a story about yourself, ask someone close to you to help. Media outlets tend to look for an angle that affects the most people, so highlighting the need for organ donation is a good “hook” for kidney transplant stories.
- Keep the List Fluid. For whatever reason, many potential donors are not able to donate. You could have 20 possible donors lined up, but none of them can donate. So it’s best to keep looking and asking until the final tests are done and the surgery is just a short time away. Always keep your options open.