Here's what it's like to donate a kidney

- Have you ever thought about donating a kidney?

Lisa Watson of Macon and Rhonda Kopetz both became living donors in 2017.

Watson gave a kidney to her friend Allison Carroll in December.

Kopetz donated to a stranger so that her co-worker could receive a kidney in a paired exchange, in November.

"Since I've gone through this, I've met so many people who have donated.  I met a woman last night who donated," Kopetz says.

So what is the process like? Expect plenty of medical tests, the women say.

Potential donors typically undergo blood and urine testing, a CT scan, a chest x-ray and even psychological testing, to make sure they are healthy enough to donate a kidney.

"They'll let you know all the way through, where you are and where you stand, and if you're a match and if you're not a match," Rhonda Kopetz says. "If you're not a direct match, you can still stay in for someone else, because there are so many people out there who need a kidney."

As your transplant day approaches, expect to feel mixed emotions.

You're choose to undergo a surgery you don't need, so it's common to experience doubt.

"Even though, I wanted to do it, I was glad to do it, I felt blessed to be able to do it, I was still really scared, really nervous," Lisa Watson says.

Kopetz says she was a little worried about the pain, but experience less than she thought she would.

The kidney recipient's insurance covers the cost of the donor's preliminary testing, surgery and hospitalization.

The surgery typically takes anywhere from 1 to 3 hours. Donors usually stay in the hospital for about 48 hours. Donors typically return to work 2 to 6 weeks after their surgery. Was it as hard as the women expected? Yes, and no.

"Probably the first week was a little bit rough, but after that, you just, it's not that bad," Lisa Watson says. "I thought it was going to be more painful than it was," Rhonda Kopetz adds.  "I don't know how I thought I was going to feel, but I feel the same as before."

Several months after their surgery, both women say they don't really notice they only have one kidney instead of two. Watson says she's glad she could help her friend, but she feels she's the one who got the real blessing in this exchange. Rhonda Kopetz says she didn't feel emotional until the night after her surgery.

"I actually said over and over, "I did it, I did it, oh my God, I did it," she smiles.

To learn more about becoming a kidney donor, and to take a test to see if you might be eligible, visit piedmont.org/LivingDonorAtlanta

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