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How do you live with one kidney?

Fortune is a mean spirited maiden sometimes. Some people are born with only one kidney (or sometimes not even one). Some people are fortunate enough to receive one kidney through the donation of a kind person. Still others lose a kidney to some sort of ailment, while a few others are the kindly people mentioned above, who can live a life using only one kidney. A lot of people out there are proving every day that one kidney is enough for the purpose to which it will be subjected. One kidney is enough to live a regular measure of life, and be perfectly healthy in the process.

Kidneys are a part of a select group of human parts that can function autonomously of one and apart from one another. One only needs to have one eye, in order to see (even though depth perception is likely to turn terrible under that sort of circumstance). One only needs one nipple, in order to properly feed one's babies (with the possible exception of twins – and who knows what they do if they end up having triplets). Even a man's testicles, critical not only to a sense of pride in one's manhood but to the production of enough testosterone to appreciate fast cars, hot women and juicy steaks, really can fly solo without any functional differences. Truly, a person can live a full life using only one kidney.

But how does a person live on only one kidney? Believe it or not, the work load of a kidney is actually fairly light. When a kidney filters the toxins out of a person's blood stream, the amount of chemicals and such that are produced is reasonably easy to flush out, through the urine which they will later excrete. And one kidney is enough to flush out all of the junk which a body produces, without any need for the "back up" kidney most people are fortunate enough to be born with.

The kidneys actually function not so much by their size as by how efficient each one is. One kidney can still process roughly 100 quarts (25 gallons) of your blood per day, and remove the impurities and excess water. Sophisticated little sieves called glomeruli (the singular term is glomerulus) separate out the particles that are not the kinds of proteins and cells that are supposed to be in your blood. While using only one kidney might mean you may not be able to recover quite as quickly if you get drunk enough to be called "smashed," even two kidneys could only do so much for you. Sometimes you need to pay the piper, after all.

So, in effect, one kidney is enough to effectively carry a person through an entire life, if need be. When the situation requires it, one kidney can process out plenty of waste to keep all of your vital systems in excellent condition. And while one kidney is enough, do not push your luck by offering people "the kidney out of your side."

Posted November 13, 2010Support your favorite Nonprofit (Click here)