When you donate a kidney, you give a sibling, child, parent, or friend another chance at life. Before your surgery, the doctor will do tests to make sure you're healthy enough to donate and that your kidney is a good match. You'll also learn what to expect during the surgery.

To make sure the procedure goes smoothly, your body needs to be in good shape. You also want to be mentally ready to donate an organ.

Prepare Your Body

Kidney donation is a major procedure. Take these steps to make sure your body is healthy enough for surgery:

Get active. If you don't already exercise, now is a good time to start. A daily walk, bike ride, or swim will help get your body in shape and improve your lungs. Good fitness will also help you recover faster after your operation.

Eat right. A well-rounded diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein is good for your body, but it's especially important when you're about to have surgery. Ask your doctor if you need to follow a special diet in the days or weeks before the operation. You'll likely need to avoid alcohol right before and after your procedure.

Stop smoking. Kick the habit at least 4 weeks before your surgery. Smoking can raise your risk for complications and make your wounds heal more slowly. Ask your doctor about aids to help you quit, like the nicotine patch or gum, or about counseling.

Ask your doctor about medicines. You’ll need to avoid drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen, and blood thinners for a week before your surgery. These medicines affect blood clotting, which can make you more likely to bleed during the procedure. Find out if you need to stop taking any other medicines, including supplements and over-the-counter drugs.

Relax. Take this time to do the things you enjoy. Stay busy to help keep your mind off the surgery. Go to a movie or have dinner with friends. Try relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation.

Prepare Your Mind

It's normal to feel a little nervous about your surgery. One way to calm your nerves is to visit a local transplant support group in your area. Talk to people who've been through the process, so you'll know what to expect.

You can also meet with a therapist or counselor. You can discuss the reasons why you're donating a kidney, how the surgery might impact your life, and any worries you have.

Another way to relieve your concerns is to talk to the doctors and other staff at the hospital. Ask about anything that worries you, like:

  • What are the risks of my surgery?
  • What will you do to reduce those risks?
  • How much pain will I be in?
  • What will you give me to relieve pain?
  • How might this surgery affect my life?

What to Pack

You'll need a few things for your hospital stay. In case you get called in for your surgery sooner than expected, have these items packed up and ready to go:

  • Loose, comfortable clothes like sweatpants and T-shirts
  • A robe and socks
  • Non-slip sneakers or slippers
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, comb/brush, and other personal hygiene items
  • A small, firm pillow that you can use to support your belly after surgery
  • Books, magazines, and music to keep you busy during your hospital stay

How to Prepare Your Home

You’ll probably be tired and in some pain after your surgery. You also won't be able to drive for about 2 weeks. Ask a family member or friend ahead of time to shop, cook meals, care for your kids, and run errands for you while you get better. 

You might have trouble getting up and down stairs for a few days. Set up a bed on the lower level of your home to avoid the climb. Also have a chair with arms to help you push yourself up.

Ask your doctor what supplies -- like bandages and antiseptic -- you'll need to clean your wound, and stock them ahead of time.

How to Talk to Friends and Family

They might have concerns about you donating a kidney. Learn all you can about the procedure and its risks so you know how to respond. Be open and honest. If they still don't get it, bring them with you to a doctor's visit. Or refer them to a counselor who can explain the process.

Ask one family member or friend you trust to be your point person during the surgery. This person can let everyone on your list know how you're doing so you don't have to make a lot of calls. You should arrange for them to stay with you the first night after your surgery, too.

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