My Donor Story: Sander Orent
Is there an age limit for donating a kidney? It’s a question many potential kidney donors ask, and Sander Orent has the answer. Sander donated his kidney at age 72 through the Voucher Program to secure a kidney for his wife of 40 years. This is Sander’s story.
My wife first went into renal failure in 1994. After 14 months of peritoneal dialysis, she was fortunate enough to receive a cadaver kidney, which lasted her for almost 28 years. Almost two years ago, that kidney’s function began to deteriorate, and it became clear that she was going to need a second transplant.
When she first went into renal failure, it was a great frustration to me that I could not donate a kidney because at the time the only options were closely related living donors or cadaver kidneys.
This time around the situation was completely different, and I was hopeful I could donate on her behalf. I knew I was healthy enough to do it. Even though I am almost 73 years old, I am very healthy. I am an avid exerciser and have been my whole life, and I don’t have any significant underlying conditions. My biggest concern was that they wouldn’t take my kidney—that they would find some reason to reject me because of my age.
The first center we went to would not even consider me due to my age. The second one, Centura Porter Adventist Hospital, was willing to look at me as a potential donor.
After a very extensive workup—all the routine testing plus a few additional things—I was approved as a donor. On December 13, 2022, I donated anonymously to a stranger through the NKR’s Standard Voucher program, and on February 22, 2023, my wife redeemed her NKR voucher and received her living donor kidney transplant. Both of us are recovering very well.
There is no feeling quite like being a living donor. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to donate a kidney to contribute to someone else’s well-being and so that my wife could avoid going back on dialysis and now has a shot at a normal life. I am a physician of almost 50 years, so I knew what I was getting into and I have absolutely no regrets. In fact, I have nothing but joy that I was able to do this.
There are many lessons in my experience, the most important of which is to be persistent about becoming a donor, no matter how old you are. I was told by the center that four out of five centers would have refused to consider me as a donor due to my age. But just age does not speak to an individual’s health.
I would encourage potential donors over 70, if they know they are in good health, to urge the center to look at them and put them through the same tests they would give a 69-year-old, if 70 if their cut-off. Ask for a definitive answer that they do not qualify, besides their age.
About the Author
Sander Orent has been practicing medicine for almost 50 years, first in emergency medicine then internal medicine and occupational medicine with an emphasis on toxicology and workplace infectious disease.
He lives with his wife of almost 42 years, Deborah, on a rural piece of land in the foothills outside of Boulder, Colorado, with two Labradors and a wolf hybrid. The wolf hybrid requires a tremendous amount of exercise, which Sander believes is one of the reasons he was physically fit enough to donate.
Sander’s passions are working on his land, hiking and skiing with his critters, skate skiing, windsurfing, and kayaking. Sander and Deborah have one daughter, 37, who lives in a nearby town with her husband and two step-children.