How to Talk to Friends and Family about Liver Donation

Most often parents are first in line to be a liver donor for their ill child. But they're not always a match. Sometimes you have to look beyond immediate family members.

About 1 in 4 people evaluated are suitable for liver donation. This means it's always a good idea to let friends and family know what you're facing and seek help.

Types of Living Donors

Living donors are generally categorized into the following types:

  • Living related donor: Someone who is biologically related to the transplant recipient, such as a parent, adult brother or sister, maternal or paternal aunt, uncle, or cousin.
  • Living unrelated donors: Someone who is emotionally connected to the transplant recipient's family, such as a close friend, neighbor, in-law, or co-worker.
  • Altruistic donors: An individual who donates a portion of their liver to a stranger in need of a transplant. Some donors may eventually meet the transplant candidates, but only if both parties agree.

Talking to People About Living Donation

It feels uncomfortable to ask someone to donate an organ to help your child. However, it helps if you shift your thinking from asking for an organ to sharing your situation with friends and family.

People, even those closest to you, may not fully understand what you and your child are up against. Use the opportunity as a chance to share information about your child's illness, his or her needs, and the benefits of living donation.

There are many fears and misconceptions about organ donation. By talking about what is involved in living donation, particularly for an adult-to-child liver donation, you may be able to help dispel some of those concerns.

Who to Ask

You probably have people you feel more comfortable talking to about your situation than others. You may even know of close friends who would likely be willing to donate part of their liver.

Start with the people that you feel most at ease talking to. Begin by sharing what you're going through and that living donation may be an option. You can also share your story with co-workers, neighbors, church members, friends in the community you work with, and others you see regularly.

If you are struggling to find a donor, you may also consider using social media. The mom of a child who received a transplant at Children's found a liver donor for her child after making a plea on Facebook. Donya McCoy had regularly been updating her social media network about her daughter's condition, a rare metabolic disorder called AdoHcy.

After posting on Facebook to see whether anyone would be willing to donate a portion of their liver, Donya heard from a high school classmate. He was a match and underwent the donation procedure.

Like Donya, you may find that people volunteer just after hearing your story. If not, give them time. The decision to donate part of an organ is a big one, and sometimes people just need more opportunity to think about it.

Seeking an organ donor is an emotional time. Our transplant coordinators are here to help you find a match and provide guidance on starting conversations with potential donors. We will also answer questions and fully explain the procedure to anyone interested.