12 Nov Quick Tips For Finding Living Donors
By: Koren Fay
We know the benefits to receiving a living donor kidney, and we have taught our patients these benefits very well. So it is not lack of information or even lack of desire that stands in their way – often it is something far more difficult to overcome: emotions, fear of rejection, pride, embarrassment. So how do we help our patients to overcome these strong emotions, and ask someone for one of the most selfless gifts they will ever give?
Ask someone to help you ask – I think this is one of the most powerful and successful tools I have seen. Just this week, an elderly gentleman made the news because he spends everyday walking miles, wearing a sandwich board that asks strangers passing by to donate a kidney to his wife. While it may be difficult for us to ask people for something for ourselves, we don’t hesitate to ask for our loved ones and friends. So maybe they have a family member who wanted to donate but wasn’t able for health or work issues. This is the perfect person to help them ask others to donate. It allows them to still feel like they are helping in some way and it takes the burden off of the patient from having to do all the asking themselves. I recommend that if they have someone like this, they bring this person to one of their transplant appointments so they can learn all the information too. This will make them much more informed when they are out discussing it with others. And they don’t need to wear a sandwich board. Simply helping to talk to family members, or helping compose a facebook post, will make all the difference in the world.
Social media – This is how people communicate these days. The message can reach large audiences with just a small investment in time. And since it is relatively “faceless” (that is to say it is leaves no one in the awkward position of having the conversation in person), it can be a much easier communication form. I explain to patients that you never know who may want to help. We have had elementary school friends, friends of friends, and past boyfriends come forward to donate. So it never hurts to ask. I do always recommend that the transplant center help the patient with drafting the message they post, just to ensure that information is accurate and response is not overwhelming to the staff of the transplant center.
Organized educational events – Organizing an event at your local library in the evening, or a booth at fair, or at your church can be an excellent way of getting the message out to many people with the added benefit of not having to have the one-on-one difficult conversation. People like to get together to socialize – and throw in some free coffee and cookies and people are hooked. In the case of church or bookclub, people are already gathered for an event. In this scenario the patient, a family member, or someone from the transplant program speaks about the general topic of transplant and organ donation and then the patient or family member can speak about the patient’s specific needs. Maybe no one in the crowd will be willing to donate, but they do leave with a better understanding of transplant and organ donation and they will tell their friends and family, and now the message has multiplied. If they are doing this on their own, patients should meet with someone at their transplant center to discuss the information ahead of time to be sure information is accurate. If the transplant center is participating in the event, I caution staff to be careful to focus on general transplant and organ donation information in order to prevent the appearance of soliciting donors on behalf of a specific patient.
Whatever the method – it is just most important that it is heard.
If you have heard of any ideas that have impacted patients, post them here!