Kicking the Kidney – Part 2
Let me start this post by reminding everyone, including myself, there is no guarantee that anyone will receive one of my kidneys.
The first thing any transplant coordinator will tell you, is to hold your horses. Many tests are done and the final decision rests with experts who will consider the facts clinically.
In South Africa when a donor and recipient are not blood relatives, the state has to consent even after the transplant panel has approved a donation.
Considering the many variables, some might consider blogging on the matter irresponsible and immature. This is not my intention.
This is a personal blog where I reflect on a variety of issues. Writing is a therapeutic instrument. To some extent this blog is also practising my writing. I benefit from writing here regardless of the number of people reading. Including this specific topic has the added benefit of hopefully raising awareness of organ donation and inspiring more people to register as organ donors.
Jan has experienced the disappointment of potential donations not materialising and knows what it feels like.
I don’t know what it feels like, but in being willing to donate I’m also accepting the possibility of being disappointed. It’s part of the deal.
This is my colleague Stephanie.
Stephanie is Jan’s cousin and she’s been talking about her uncle needing a kidney for as long as I’ve known her and, I’m sure, long before that.
Although I’ve always thought organ donation a worthy cause, Stephanie has certainly been a catalyst to the idea and she is the link between Jan and me.
After the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Stephanie single-handedly started a challenge called “When Life Gives You Lemons” to raise awareness of the plight of those waiting for transplants. She had scores of people eat slices of lemon to experience how sour life can be to those awaiting transplants.
In the beginning of 2016, I would not have thought of myself as a possible live donor for one simple reason: I was incredibly overweight. During the year I managed to lose around 30kg – something I’ll write about in another post – and to donate a kidney I still have to lose some more. Another point on which I’ll elaborate later.
Sometime during the second half of 2016 Stephanie mentioned to a group of people in passing that her uncle’s donor had to be the A+ blood group. That was the first time I realised I could be a potential donor, but although I asked her about it the same day, at the time Jan had another possible donor.
At the time when I asked her to keep me updated, she still looked at me like someone just being sympathetic.
When the news came in October that the previously planned donation could not go ahead, Stephanie’s face was nothing short of incredulous when I asked how I would go about to volunteer a kidney.
Incredulity is a reaction I’m still getting from everywhere.
In the very first email I received from the transplant coordinator she assured me that the medical testing on me will be so thorough that if I eventually find myself in surgery for the donation, it will mean that my health is not compromised at all.
In my next post, I’ll write about the tests we’ve done so far … we’ve really only just started. That is with me, of course, on Jan’s side everything has been done before.
Before I end this post, though, let me answer the question people keep on asking: Why?
My shortest answer is: Why not?
Some people don’t donate blood because they get dizzy or are afraid of needles. So this is the first point I can make about me: I am not afraid of needles, doctors, surgery, hospitals or anything in between. I’m also not afraid of pain or recovering from surgery.
Secondly, to me, life is about meaning. Some people live with the aim of enjoying as much as they can. And that is a good thing. But for me to be happy, I have to feel that I’m doing something meaningful.
Don’t misunderstand. I certainly do not need or feel obliged to donate a kidney in order to be happy. But if I am able to donate a kidney, doing so will add an infallible beacon of meaning to my life and that will certainly bring me some happiness.
Of course, the whole point of the donation is that it really isn’t about me. It’s about freeing someone else from the burden of dialysis and adding quality to his life.
I believe it’s the Dalai Lama who said the purpose of life is to help others and that when we cannot help we should at least not harm.
In my years on earth thus far, I’ve certainly harmed way too many people. Some intentionally, some unintentionally, some carelessly or accidentally, some a little and some very badly.
Even if I could correct all my mistakes, doing so might take a lifetime.
Donating a kidney won’t fix any of my wrongdoings. But if I am able to donate a kidney, doing so will be the right thing for me to do.
Many people set themselves unnecessary physical goals: running a marathon, climbing a mountain etc. Then they train in order to achieve those goals.
Losing weight to donate a kidney falls more or less into the same category for me.