Kidney Transplant Process and Resources

Collaboration for Better Care

A comprehensive team of pediatric specialists on staff at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan work together to serve the needs of pediatric Kidney Transplant Program patients.  The Children’s Hospital Kidney Transplant Program provides the best possible care to children with chronic kidney disease and end stage renal disease.

Pediatric Dialysis Center

Children who need a kidney transplant often spend time on dialysis while waiting for transplant surgery. The Pediatric Dialysis Center at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan not only provides a comfortable environment for children and teens, it’s also known for the highest quality and patient safety standards.

The Pediatric Dialysis Center is recognized as a 5-Diamond Facility by the Renal Network 11, comprised of five states in the Upper Midwest, for having completed the 5-Diamond Patient Safety Program module. This distinction recognizes the work Children’s Hospital of Michigan has done to promote patient safety and the entire team’s devotion to patient safety issues within the dialysis community.

How to Start the Process

If your child has advanced kidney disease or is on dialysis, it’s time to start considering kidney transplantation. The sooner you begin the process, the faster your child can get back to living.

Here are the simple steps you can take to get started on your transplant journey:

  • Attend a kidney transplant orientation to learn about the procedure.
  • Meet with pediatric nephrologists, transplant surgeons on staff and Kidney Transplant Program dietitians and social workers to determine the patient’s readiness and need for a transplant.
  • Additional pediatric medical specialists on staff may also be involved in the initial evaluation, including urologists, child psychologists and specially trained transplant nurses.
  • After the initial evaluation, the physicians and specialists convene as a patient selection committee to decide if a child is ready for transplantation.
  • If the child is ready for transplantation, he/she will be listed on the UNOS waiting list for a deceased donor kidney – even if a living donor candidate has volunteered to donate a kidney to the child. Since it may take a long time for a deceased donor kidney to become available, it’s wise to list the child on the UNOS database in case something unexpected comes up and the living donor cannot donate his/her kidney after all.

Understanding the Kidney Transplant Process

Kidney transplantation is a surgical procedure that removes one healthy kidney from a donor and places it in another person who suffers from kidney disease or failure. One transplanted kidney can perform the work of two failed kidneys.

There are three main types of kidney transplant donors:

  • Living-related donor – a living family member
  • Living-unrelated donor – a spouse or friend
  • Deceased donors – a recently deceased person who wanted to be an organ donor

General Health Maintenance Requirements

During the pre-transplant process, the kidney transplant recipient and donor candidate must meet certain general health maintenance requirements to remain eligible for a transplant. These requirements include:

  • Immunization
  • Dental evaluation
  • Cardiac clearance

Living Donor Transplantation

A kidney transplant from a living donor is the preferred source of organ for transplantation. Kidneys from living donors generally last twice as long as kidneys from deceased donors.

Other advantages of living-donor transplants include:

  • Shorter wait time to transplantation
  • Lower chance of organ rejection
  • Improved short- and long-term outcomes
  • Shorter hospital stays

In many cases, identifying a living donor can help your child avoid dialysis completely or decrease his/her length of time on dialysis.

If you don’t have a living donor for your child, you still have a chance of getting a kidney from a deceased donor. All patients at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan are placed on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) waiting list for a deceased-donor kidney.

Becoming a Kidney Donor

If you have a friend or family member who is willing to donate a kidney, he or she may contact Children’s Hospital of Michigan to begin the process. A pre-transplant coordinator and social worker are available to help you and the living-donor candidate through the process of becoming a kidney donor. Call 1-888-DMC 2500 for further information.

Other useful resources include:

Children's Organ Transplant Association

Gift of Life Michigan Organ and Tissue Donation Program

Michigan Organ Donor Registry 

National Kidney Foundation

Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network

Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients

The Detroit MOTTEP Foundation

Transplant Living

UNOS-United Network for Organ Sharing

Criteria for Living Donors

Living donors should be in good overall physical and mental health and free from uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and organ diseases. Most living donors are older than 18 years of age and compatible with the intended transplant recipient.

Studies have shown that living kidney donors can expect to live a normal life span with no long-term health consequences. Because the donor’s health is extremely important, each donor candidate is screened very carefully. Each potential donor receives a thorough, medical evaluation and examination which are covered by the recipient’s medical insurance.

Read our Patient Stories

A'ja's Story

Nov 13, 2019

Art Therapy Leads To Lifesaving Kidney Transplant

A'ja art therapyAs a 12-year-old girl in 2009, A’ja Booth remembers being healthy but worried when she was waking up feeling bloated and swollen. She thought she had food allergies.

Testing at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan showed she had a serious kidney disease called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). FSGS is a disease in which scar tissue develops on the parts of the kidneys that filter waste out of the blood (glomeruli). It can be caused by a variety of conditions. Without treatment, FSGS may lead to kidney failure where the only treatment options are dialysis or kidney transplant.

Tej Mattoo, M.D., chief of Nephrology and Hypertension and director, Renal Transplant Program, on staff at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, says unfortunately A’ja did not respond to traditional treatment, including medications that reduce the amount of protein in the urine or treatment that suppresses the immune system.

Dr. Mattoo who served as principal investigator for a national research study on new treatment for FSGS funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) says treatment can be challenging for those with the disorder.

“More than half of such patients progress to permanent renal failure and they run a risk of recurrence of the disease in a transplanted kidney.”

A’ja developed kidney failure and required life-saving dialysis treatment for four years until a kidney donor could be found.

To help A’ja cope with her treatment, she received visits from Jenny Fox, art therapist, who is part of the Child Life staff at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan. Child Life services offer support such as music and art therapists to help children cope with their emotions, adapt to new physical restrictions after trauma and find comfort in safe, calming distractions during treatment.

According to Jenny, at first it was hard for A’ja to open up and talk about what she was going through. Jenny thought A’ja may enjoy working on a photo book that would chronicle her journey through treatment and provide a unique perspective on her thoughts and emotions through pictures and words.

“Taking photographs and using A’ja’s own words to describe it was a nonthreatening way for her to safely communicate through images what was going on in her treatment. It provided her with the power and control she needed to express herself and her journey,” Jenny says.

A’ja decided to share her photo book with friends and others at school and it caught the attention of her health teacher Nadirah Muhammad.

That encounter led to the life-saving kidney transplant A’ja was waiting for.

“After seeing the photo book I told A’ja I would be willing to donate my kidney to her if I was a right match,” Nadirah says.

The amazing offer from A’ja’s teacher turned into a life-saving gift. Nadirah was a perfect match to be a donor.

"Her operation went smoothly. Her donor's kidney anatomy was not straightforward, and required extra work after the kidney was removed from her donor (her teacher) in order to make sure the new kidney received excellent blood supply throughout. The great news is that the kidney had immediate kidney function, which is the case for greater than 97% of all living donor kidney transplants we perform at the Children's Hospital of Michigan," says Dean Y. Kim, M.D, Chief, Transplant Services, on staff at the Children's Hospital of Michigan.

A'ja says she feels healthy and fortunate that she has a new lease on life.

“I feel very blessed that Nadirah donated her kidney so I can be healthy and plan to use this gift so that I may help others who might be in a similar situation."

In fact, A’ja is hoping to get her photo book published so that it may help other kids who are on dialysis and waiting for a transplant. She is also hoping to pay it forward by enrolling at Oakland University after high school and attending nursing school to help other kids.

For further information or to schedule an appointment call (313) 745-KIDS or toll-free at (888) 362-2500.

Find a Doctor

Need a doctor for your child's care?