Sixteen years ago today I donated a kidney to my Dad. I am not looking for kudos because believe me, it was not a selfless act! This benefited me as much or more than anyone else including my Dad. Seriously, who doesn’t want a healthy Dad and happy Mom?
I wanted to share, because today is our Kidneyversary (it’s a word, trust me), and also because I wanted to remind everyone the importance of organ donation. I am not an expert on organ donation, but I do know some basic facts. If you want more scientific data, go here for a start: organdonor.gov
There are some organs you can donate while living, like I did. That is known as a live donation. Other organs are available only from cadaver or deceased donors, and you need to make your donation wishes known for it to happen. No matter the donation, it is vitally important. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service, 18 people die each day in the U.S. because of the shortage of donated organs. The good news is that on average 79 people per day in the U.S. receive potentially life-saving organs.
My story is simple, my Dad needed a kidney and I learned there was such a thing as live donors. (The most common donations come from cadavers, but the success rate is better from a live donor.) Most of us are born with two kidneys, but we can live fine with one. I didn’t see how he wouldn’t get a live kidney. My Mom offered hers immediately, but learned she was not a match. I volunteered, but he was concerned about me going under the knife for him and wasn’t crazy about the idea. Nevertheless I can be stubborn, so I went in to get tested to see if I was a match. Low and behold I was a pretty good one, and was finally able to talk him into it.
Kidney donation back in 1998 was a little more barbaric than it is now, so I am left with a 10 inch scar and am missing a rib, but today it is usually done with a laparoscope and a small incision. The scar doesn’t bother me at all though, I am actually fond of it. Other than the scar (and the missing kidney and rib!), I am physically no different than I was before. I did what I did to make my Dad healthy, so he and my Mom could be happy and grow old together. What I had no idea would happen was the emotional change in me as well.
How do I best explain the feeling I had? I don’t know. The closest I can come is to say, “I stopped giving a shit.” I really did.
I stopped thinking that my job was my identity, which was good because at the time I was in sales and not very good at it! The man I loved lived across the country and it seemed insane, but I decided we needed the relationship to work. It did, we are married and have a beautiful family. I spent more time with my family and friends. I tried to say “no” more often to things I really didn’t want to do. I tried new things. I decided I needed to write.
So today my parents are healthy and happy, I have a wonderful family and friends, I am fortunate that the work I do is work I like, and I write. Is my happiness due in a large part because I donated an eight ounce chunk of me? Heck yeah it is. Donating my kidney changed my life, and better yet it saved a life.
Please consider donating your organs, whether as a live donor or after you are gone. As of today, there are 123, 252 people in the U.S. waiting for an organ. If you choose to donate, it is a no-brainer that you will forever change the lives of others, and the pretty cool thing is that it will probably change yours as well.