In the case of direct donations, yes, only donors with certain blood types can make a direct donation.
But direct donation isn't the only way. Paired donations (where a Donor 1 gives to Recipient 2 and Donor 2 gives to Recipient 1), increase the availability of suitable donors to the intended recipient.
Kidney Transplant Chains ("KTCs") take that idea farther. In KTCs, a willing donor starts the chain by giving to Recipient 1. Donor 1 then donates to Recipient 2 and Donor 2 donates to Recipient 3, and so on.
So you don't need a donor with the same blood type. You just need a donor willing to donate their kidney so that you can receive a kidney, albeit from someone else in the KTC.
Here's the story:
1. A donor with any blood type can provide a kidney so that their intended beneficiary receives a kidney, just not necessarily the donor's kidney, but a kidney neverthless, just one from someone else who donates a kidney to benefit some other recipient or for anyone without specific direction. That's done via a KTC facilitated by one or more hospitals or by the National Kidney Registry ("NKR").
2. Specifying a particular blood type can eliminate significant portions of the donor population who might think that they can't help the intended recipient because their blood type is different. The fact is, though, that through KTCs persons with a different blood type can donate so that their intended beneficiary does receive a kidney transplant.
3. There are 8 blood types, with the following prevalences:
4. The chart below shows the percentage of the donor population who can donate to you directly, as well as the percentage of the donor population who cannot donate to you directly. And, even though some donors cannot donate to you directly, nevertheless, their donation of a kidney into a kidney transplant chain, can result in you getting a compatible kidney, just not your donor's kidney.
What if A Prospective Donor is Not a Compatible Match?
Hospitals that participate in the National Kidney Registry, and other hospitals, can facilitate a kidney swap where a willing but incompatible kidney donor wants to help a particular patient who has an incompatible kidney.
Transplants can be arranged where the willing donor is placed in a pool of other willing donors willing to donate to whomever needs their kidney. In the process, the donor's intended recipient receives a kidney from someone else in the pool whose own intended recipient also receives a compatible kidney from yet another person in the pool.
Such swaps are called Kidney Transplant Chains. Such chains involve a pool of patients where each patient is paired with a donor willing to donate but who is incompatible because of differences in blood type or other tissue sensitivities. Kidneys within the exchange are swapped among incompatible pairs to allow for more transplants. That arrangement increases the number of transplants dramatically. That saves many lives, and it could save my life.