Organ Donation > Kidney Donation

What You Need to Know About
Kidney Donation.

Becoming a Kidney Donor: What to Expect

While processes can vary by transplant program, the kidney donation process begins with tests and examinations to ensure you are healthy enough to donate a kidney. These checks will also ensure that you are physically and emotionally prepared for kidney donation.

Most surgeons will perform laparoscopic surgery (although some cases will require open surgery). The kidney donor can expect to stay in the hospital for 2-7 days. After returning home, kidney donors typically have some discomfort for 1-2 weeks, but the pain can be managed with prescription or over-the-counter pain medication. It is common to feel tenderness, itching, and some pain post-donation.

How long are you out of work if you donate a kidney?

After surgery, kidney donors are usually able to return to work within two to six weeks. Donors who have jobs that require heavy lifting (more than 10 pounds) or are physically demanding, should plan on at least six weeks for recovery. Those donors with less strenuous jobs may be able to return sooner. Some kidney donors can request to work part-time or have lighter duties to accommodate their transition back to work.

It is suggested that individuals overestimate the time needed from work to avoid additional physical strain on their recovery process. Many donors may return to work before they feel fully recovered because of underestimating the time needed away, feeling guilty, or due to financial need.

Most living kidney donors return to their normal lives with one kidney, but potential donors should consult their doctor to discuss specific risks.

How to Approach Your Employer

Approaching your company about taking time off from work can be challenging – but the Circle of Excellence is here to help!

When you meet with your employer about taking a leave for living organ donation, you may consider the following questions:

  • Will the leave I take as a donor qualify for statutory job protection?
  • Will company disability benefits pay a portion of my income while I recover from surgery?
  • In a case where a surgery may not be required, does the employer offer a separate leave bank (e.g., up to 10 days) or do I have to use my PTO? This may include time off for testing, travel, the actual donation, etc.
  • If I don't need an extended absence (e.g., not FMLA), what documentation will I need for the absence?
  • In the event the employer does not offer a separate bank, will they allow leave donation from other employees?

Additionally, the following country-specific information may be helpful for you to know as a potential living donor.

United States

In the US, job-protected leave for voluntary living organ donation and the subsequent recovery time will often be available under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”).

The FMLA provides most employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.

To be covered by the FMLA, you must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and 1,250 hours, and your employer must have at least 50 employees within 75 miles of your worksite. (See page 2 of The Employee Guide to the FMLA - the “Guide”)

“Serious health condition” includes voluntary living organ donation and recovery if:

  • The donation requires inpatient care (i.e., an overnight stay in a medical care facility); see page 4 of the Guide and 29 CFR § 825.114; or
  • The donation requires a period of incapacity of more than three consecutive, full days and continuing treatment; see page 4 of the Guide and 29 CFR § 825.115(a).

In Canada, job-protected leave for voluntary living organ donation is controlled by provincial statute for most employees. The following provinces provide this job-protected leave:

Employees in federally regulated industries are entitled to 17 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave.

Canada Provincial Health

If the organ donation is coordinated through the provincial health authority, then the operation will be covered by the provincial health plan. Each province has their own health authorities and there are also some living organ donor reimbursement plans to support some of the donor expenses such as travel, meals, as well as loss of income.  

Living Donor Toolkits

Medical Toolkit | Visit

The Medical Toolkit will discuss specific aspects of living kidney donor evaluation and experience.

Financial Toolkit | Visit

The Living Donor Financial Toolkit will discuss the costs and resources available to help in the donation process. This toolkit is for potential living donors and others involved in living donation.

Becoming a Living Donor Series | Visit

This online program, created by the National Kidney Foundation, teaches everything you need to know about donating a kidney, including benefits and risk, how to start the evaluation process, the surgery, financial considerations, and emotional aspects of donation.

Kidney Donor Stories

Ann's Story

Ann donated her kidney to a close friend. She also worked with her employer, University of Alabama at Birmingham, to implement a policy to provide salary support to an employee who volunteers as living organ donor or bone marrow donor.

It developed momentum and it passed, and it was just very exciting. In some ways, I think it's more exciting than transplanting one person because it can impact more people. I'm sure there are people who don't donate because they don't have paid time off - because they can't afford it. You might be off and your job is protected, but that doesn't pay your mortgage. Having a policy really opens the door to more transplants taking place. It takes away one more barrier that might prevent people from being living donors.

Read Ann's full story.

Has a company policy helped you with living donation? Share your story.

See if Donating a Kidney
is a Good Fit for You

Download the guide to learn more.