BY GUEST BLOGGER JOSH GORALSKI
Some say your body mourns the loss of an organ. Is this real or is it just a way to describe all the emotions you feel after saving a life by donating your kidney? Who knows? 5.5 years ago when I donated my kidney to give my Dad another lease on life. This post will share my thoughts on this question. Fun fact: I know Laurie because she was on the floor visiting her Dad when I donated my kidney. Our families met walking the halls.
Background: In March of 2011, I was a freshman and over spring break donated my kidney. The whole process was something that words cannot describe. Having the opportunity to donate a kidney, be out of the hospital the next day and I back to college about a week and a half later is really a testament to the amazing abilities of our body. I will spare you the details but nothing went as planned during the testing process from getting told I was a matched in November to on Dec 23rd getting told my Dad’s blood type had changed slightly and they need to cancel the transplant (for Dec 26th) to finally getting to donate on March 3rd.
While the recipient comes into the surgery not feeling well and wakes up feeling better instantly. In my Dad’s case free from letting a machine keep you alive, the body gets the boost of a working kidney, something no drug can replicate. On the other side, the donor goes into the procedure with excellent health and wakes up in pain. In talking with a few other people who have donated their kidney’s they share my feelings. There is nothing you can do to prepare your body for the shock of signing the consent paper, being put out then waking up (after a great nap) wanting to sit up but realizing you are in too much pain to sit up. Good news for those of you considering donating…lately it seems like donors are having less pain upon waking up.
Back to the feeling that something was missing… While the hospital did their one-week check-up and said come back in 6 months, the processing of the what had happened mentally was just beginning. Back at school it was finally starting to sink in, what I had been working on doing for almost a year had happened, you can’t repeat it and you can only pray that your father does not reject your kidney.
One of my favorite questions they asked me prior to donating was, “how would I feel if my Dad’s body rejected my kidney?” I answered that I understood there was always a chance and had to accept it. That question though really symbolizes something bigger, the giving up of part of yourself to give another person, in my case my Dad, in Laurie’s case a stranger, a chance to live a “closer to normal life” whether that kidney works for a day, year or 15 years. The donor was able to give them a priceless gift, the ability to live life normally.
At some point he will need another kidney and I will have to make peace with the fact I can’t save him again, wishing my kidney had lasted longer but joy for the new lease on life he has had for the last 5.5 years plus+. It is really symbolic of how it takes a community not just one person to save another’s life. I believe that God gave me 2 kidney’s for a reason one to keep and one to nurture, grow, love, and then to give-away all in God’s time. Giving life to the person who gave me life, nothing more beautiful than that…I told the team at Northwestern that I wanted to give it away to a stranger if I was not a match for my Dad.
To this day, 5.5 years later I still think I can at times feel the empty spot where my kidney was. Having the kidney in our immediate family still every time I hug my Dad I am hugging part of myself. Whether the feeling of emptiness I feel where the kidney used to be is my brain playing with me or an actual feeling I do not know but I do not think it matters because it is as symbolic as anything. For me, that empty feeling is a reminder of struggle others go through on a daily basis because of health issues, it is also a reminder of why I work in the social sector working towards equity. I am extremely blessed to be given this healthy life and want to do all I can to leave the world a better place.
I was blessed to have countless family and friends offering any support but in particular Jessica, a fellow kidney donor reached out. Jessica had donated her kidney only weeks before I did to her brother and we were both in school. Jessica has no idea how thankful I was to have someone who had also been through the process and I am forever thankful.
As for donating a kidney… would I do it again? Absolutely! (I would donate my other kidney but that would present slight problems for continuing to live). If you have seen the move 7 pounds I can relate to Will Smith who plays the main character in the movie I feel like him wanting to give both kidneys away at times. Would I encourage you to do it? YES! If you ever need to talk to anyone please reach out to me.