Selena Gomez’s kidney transplant is drawing new attention to the donation process.
Gomez — who suffers from Lupus — received a kidney from actress Francia Raisa. She posted images to Instagram Thursday revealing the donation process.
The actress and singer called Raisa’s donation “the ultimate gift and sacrifice.”
There are currently 123,000 people in the U.S. on the wait list for a new kidney. This could be for a myriad number of reasons like complications from diabetes or high blood pressure, severe kidney stones or diseases that lead to kidney failure like Lupus, according to the National Kidney Foundation.
Out of those who need a transplant, only about 17,000 people receive one each year and every day, 12 people die on the wait list. The transplant list, managed by the United Network for Organ Sharing, is ordered by severity of need: the worse a person’s condition, the higher they will be placed.
“This number (of kidney recipients) is so low because that’s how many kidneys are available from people who have died,” director of the Transplant Institute at NYU Langone Health, Dr. Robert Montgomery, told the Daily News. “One big problem is that people don’t have conversations with their families before they die to consent to being a donor. Then the family, at the worst moment possible, has to make the decision for them.”
For a transplant to be confirmed, blood types and antibodies have to match and then other health factors, like how long a person has been in kidney failure, overall health and age, are considered. Because of these requirements — put in place to offer a sick person the best possible chance of survival after undergoing a transplant — finding a match is extremely difficult.
To get on the list, patients need to speak with their doctors, who can lobby for them to be added, or seek out a transplant center on their own. Each center has differing requirements for a candidate to be considered – on top of the general necessary steps. Where the patient in kidney failure lives might come into play since a donor’s organ has to be able to travel safely and quickly to him. Once on the list, a person might wait an average of three to five years for a match but in some areas of the country, that wait is much longer. Donors can be living or deceased.
“A good donor has to have two kidneys,” Dr. Montgomery told The News. “It might seem funny but some people are born with one and don’t even know it. You have to not have a tendency towards diabetes or high blood pressure or be obese to be a donor.”
For people like Gomez, a direct donor — not her celebrity status — sped up the transplant process. Gomez’s close friend donated her medically matched kidney directly to her. This often happens among close friends and family members with organs such as kidneys — you only technically need one to survive — and livers, which can be divided, transplanted and regrown back to health.
After donating a kidney, people usually go back to their normal lives and activities within two weeks without any long-term complications or medications necessary.
“The operation is a minimally invasive procedure and people usually go home either the next day or two days after,” Dr. Montgomery said. “One of the side effects is that the donor feels really good about having done that. There’s a psychological benefit of having done something selfless for someone else.”