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

Kennedy's Story

May 31, 2019

Grateful Kidney Transplant Recipient Starts Her Own Non-Profit to Help Kids

Kennedy Carter of Mayville, Michigan, knows a thing or two about being in the hospital. After complaints of feeling weak and anemic in 2008, doctors at DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan determined she had microscopic polyangiitis (MPA), a disorder causing blood vessel inflammation which can lead to organ damage.

kennedy cheerleading

In Kennedy’s case, the disorder affected her kidneys which caused them to fail. Rudolph Valentini, MD, Chief Medical Officer at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, says Kennedy was courageous throughout the early months of her kidney failure. “She had to accept the fact that her kidneys could not be returned to normal function due to the advanced MPA. As such, she would need hemodialysis at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan three days per week for several months.”

Kennedy’s mom, Stacy, says she was forced to miss many days of school and was in the hospital for more than 90 days. Once her disease stabilized, Kennedy was changed to home peritoneal dialysis which allowed her to spend more time at home and reduce her school absences. Although dialysis could continue for some time, her best hope was for a kidney transplant.

Fortunately for Kennedy, a match was found after only a few months and in October of 2010, she received her lifesaving kidney transplant.

Since her transplant she has not been admitted to the hospital and only goes in for routine care.

She is back at school, on the cheerleading squad and participates in the Imagine Photo Club, a program at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan designed to help patients tell their own story through photographic images.

Fortunately, Kennedy is spending fewer days as a patient and more time helping other kids at the hospital.

Kennedy has started a non-profit organization called Kids Just Care (KJC). This charity, whose initials match those of Kennedy, aims to raise money and provide toys for kids at the hospital. She has made bracelets and raised more than $1,000 her first year. Her hope is to double that amount this year.

Kennedy’s mother Stacy says with great emotion, her family will never forget the generosity of the donor family. “We recently learned the donor was a 33-year-old mother of three. As a parent, I cannot imagine having to make that selfless act. Words can never express the gratitude we have.

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