Living Kidney Donation: Rachel's Story

Living donor Rachel Vankoningsveld with her mother, who received her kidney in November 2012Look Mom, No Scar!


Rachel Vankoningsveld's friends aren't completely convinced she donated her kidney to her mother like she said she did. After all, they kid, she doesn't even have the scar to prove it.


That was the point of the Baraboo woman's belly-button nephrectomy, a new procedure at UW Hospital and Clinics that has been earning high praise from patients.


During the procedure, the surgeon makes a 4- to 6-centimeter incision straight through the middle of the belly button, unfolds it and puts a port behind it. He inserts all his instruments through the port and pulls the kidney out.


The procedure has the same recovery time as a laparoscopic nephrectomy, with little to no scarring.


"You really have to dig to see the scar inside my belly button," says Rachel - thus, the reason her friends have been teasing her.


When Rachel's mom needed a new kidney due to focal glomerular sclerosis, doctors evaluated several potential donors, and Rachel was the best match. She underwent the surgery in November 2012 and was in the hospital only a day and a half after the procedure"You really have to dig to see the scar inside my belly button," says Rachel.


When she returned home, she was walking around her neighborhood right away, using only Tylenol for pain. After two weeks, she was back to her job as a receptionist.


Given a choice, transplant surgeons prefer a kidney from a living donor as opposed to a deceased donor because it lasts longer. The belly-button nephrectomy has made the process even easier for donors such as Rachel.


Rachel is now a living donor mentor, and so far has mentored one woman. "I eased her fears - especially about work," she says.