Hi, thanks for visiting my blog! This blog is about my journey to become a “non-directed living kidney donor.” That means that my goal is to donate a kidney to someone who needs one who I don’t know, and may never know.
I am doing this for 3 reasons:
Reason #1: My family (I have a great family) benefited from organ donation, and I feel extremely compelled to give back to that system because I am grateful in a way that’s difficult to express in words.
My dad is a liver transplant recipient. He received a liver transplant March 1, 2011 at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, and is living a fully normal life. He blogged his entire journey. Check out Dan’s Liver Blog to read his story about his transplant and Transplant Village. It’s an informative, easy, fun read.
Before he needed a transplant, I had always been a registered organ donor, but hadn’t really been exposed to anyone or any situations that would make me think about organ donation on anything more than a superficial level. It was marked on my driver’s license, and it’s something I was comfortable with happening when I died. I think this is pretty normal for people. Sometimes you don’t take time to form opinions about things until it matters to you on a personal level. Now, it really matters to me on a very personal level.
During and after the transplant it was hard to articulate how it felt to be the lucky recipients of a healthy liver. Sadly, an average of 21 people die each day because the organs they need are not donated in time (from living or deceased donors). As much as my family felt happy for the “win” when my dad received a life-saving transplant, we knew it was in exchange for someone else’s “loss,” which is humbling.
My desire to give back to this system is so strong, it genuinely feels like something I am supposed to do. I feel very fortunate to have had the life I have had so far- I really like my life! Not everyone can say that, so why not pay it forward? I really can’t wait to do this!
Reason #2: There is a SURPLUS of organs, yet when you go online all you find are statistics about the alleged “organ shortage.” A cultural shift in the way we talk about living donation is on the horizon, and more living donors will bring change to a tipping point faster.
Everywhere you go online you can read about how we have an organ shortage that prevents everyone who needs a life saving transplant from getting one. THERE IS NOT A SHORTAGE OF ORGANS, THERE IS ACTUALLY A SUPLUS OF ORGANS! There is a shortage of organ donors, both living and deceased. Efforts to compel people to become organ donors fall short in asking them to become donors when they die only. Being a donor when we die is great, it’s super important, but why wait until we die? Why not do it now?
If you were on a plane that was about to crash and had 2 parachutes, and the guy next to you didn’t have one, wouldn’t you give him your spare? Or would you take it with you because someone else might need it later? What if you and the guy next to you were both bit by a poisonous snake, and you had 2 anti-venoms? Wouldn’t you give one to the other guy, or would you hold onto it? I get that these examples don’t require the loss of bodily integrity, and being a donor does. But I hope you can see the picture I am trying to paint. I also understand that there are times in life more conducive to doing this. For me, right now is a good time. I completely understand that not everybody is in the position to do this at any given time, and am in no way judging people who don’t share my point of view.
Point being, there isn’t a shortage of organs, there is a shortage of people who understand or “care to share their spare.” This is not because people are selfish, its because they are complacent, or uninformed, and have been shaped by a culture that doesn’t actively promote living organ donation. You just need 1 kidney to live a full and normal life. And if you donate part of your liver, you get the whole thing back (it grows back to its normal size). Why not share this natural resource and put it to immediate use? In any other situation if we possessed something that we didn’t need that would give life to someone who would otherwise die, we wouldn’t’ think twice about giving it to them. So why do we treat our kidneys and livers differently? While I realize this blog isn’t going to shift the way our culture thinks, I would really like to be part of the movement that will shift our attitude about living donation. That’s my second reason.
Reason #3: Demonstrate that living organ donation is a non-event.
I am stealing the term “non-event” from my dad who considers his own transplant to be a non-event. My mom, sister, and I would disagree, as it was traumatic at times, but I like the term and feel that if a liver recipient can say that, then a kidney donor can definitely call this a non-event.
Since 2011, I have come to know a lot of transplant recipients and a lot of living donors. Almost all share the same story about how easy it was to donate, and that it was a positive experience. The last kidney donor I met checked into the hospital on a Wednesday morning, checked out Thursday night, and was back to work the following Monday. Less than a month later she was in Mexico on vacation. It’s really NOT THAT BAD, and the recipient’s insurance covers your costs. I think more people would come forward to be a donor, if they understood that it really isn’t that big of a deal. I am carefully recording every minute I am spending on the process of becoming a donor. I expect that when I am done with this process, the time commitment will be far less than you think. I am willing to bet that you will be able to come up with things you have done for other people, your kids, your loved ones, or even a charity that was a greater time and/or financial commitment than this will be for me. In doing this, I hope more people consider becoming a non-directed donor when they consider how they will spend their time next year giving back or doing good. My hope is that one day, this option comes up on a menu of common ways people choose to be nice to their fellow humans.
You are Invited!
I am hoping that I can put some stipulations on the donation, but don’t know yet if that is possible. It is my hope that I can introduce my kidney into a large pool of kidneys that will allow for a chain to start. A kidney donor chain creates opportunities for endless recipient-donor pairings. It starts with a random donor (me) willing to donate a kidney. That kidney is transplanted into a recipient who had a donor willing to give a kidney, but was not a match. That donor, who was not a match, then donates a kidney to someone who IS a match. In theory this could go on forever. In 2014, UAB Hospital in Birmingham Alabama completed the 49th, 50th and 51st transplants in the longest living-donor kidney transplant chain. In total, the chain included 68 people (34 donors and 34 recipients) at 26 hospitals nationwide. It would be my ultimate goal to be part of something like that, something making that much impact.
So, this is what I am up to in my free time this year. Does anyone want to do this with me? Think about this- if we get multiple people to participate at once, we could ultimately flood the pool of existing kidneys which would be a massive springboard to create a really long chain (hey, it could be the longest in history). A friend in the journey would double the fun!