More than 500,000 people in the United States currently live with kidney failure. The only treatment option that allows them to live without dialysis is to receive a transplant. However, nearly 100,000 individuals are on the national waitlist—with an average wait time of three to seven years.
Living donation, though, provides a measure of hope for those on the waitlist. Because people need only one kidney to sustain life, individuals may elect to donate one of their kidneys to someone, which may help significantly reduce the wait time. Living donation offers another potential benefit: A kidney from a deceased donor may only remain viable for 8–12 years, but a transplanted kidney from a living donor may continue functioning properly for 12–20 years.
To raise awareness and increase opportunities for living donation, DaVita and the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) have launched year two of The Patient Navigator Program, within NKF’s The Big Ask: The Big Give platform. The goal for the program is to work on building patient stories and spread awareness through sharing their story for a living donor.
The program provides high-touch, in-depth support to patients and families seeking a living donor. This includes one-on-one guidance from a trained patient navigator, interactive tools on a newly developed web platform, a private online community for program participants and support from health care professionals.
Patient navigators are individuals who have received a living donor transplant, themselves, and are equipped to help patients navigate through the step-by-step process of sharing their stories for a living donor in their local and online communities.
DaVita social workers connect with patients in dialysis centers to educate and provide information about participating in the program. Social workers play a key role in a patient’s transplant journey, serving as a helpful ally and source of empowerment as patients manage their kidney health and consider transplantation.
“It’s been an amazing experience working with and seeing previous living donor recipients looking to give back to those who are in a similar situation they were once in; providing this special and unique support that is different from what dialysis and transplant professionals can offer,” said Kelley Canavan, LMSW Patient Programs Director at NKF. “Hearing Patient Navigators say, ‘I just wish I had this type of program available to me when I needed a kidney’ makes you realize the potential impact this support can have on future kidney patients and their families as the program continues to grow.”
Year two of the program will be available in California, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia, and will run from September through April 2023. DaVita and NKF carefully selected this year’s states due to their high prevalence of patients on transplant waitlists, and with the intention of addressing health inequities.
Throughout the program, participants have four scheduled phone or video calls with their navigator to work on writing their story and then plan on where and with who they’ll share it with. NKF also measures the level of comfort and willingness patients experience with sharing their story before and after the program.
By building out follow-up processes for this year’s program, both NKF and DaVita hope to encourage ongoing story-sharing with a goal of inspiring other individuals to step forward as a living donor.