I was talking to Mary Hothem, a friend of Lisa’s and mine, earlier today and she asked (I think) if it seemed strange that 3 weeks ago I had 2 kidneys, and now one is in Lisa. And that also got us on the discussion of something the UC-Denver Social Worker had talked to me about – are Lisa and I on the same page on what this means now and long-term? That giving a kidney (or other organ) may create some emotions that could differ between us and subsequently cause anxiety, depression, other psychosocial issues if not on common ground. I don’t recall that Lisa and I have had a significant discussion about this and I don’t know that we need one (but I’m sure she’ll let me know if we do after reading this!). I also don’t know if there is a right or wrong answer, but can understand how differences in feelings might create some discord.
This is how I feel – Lisa needed a kidney; I had 2 perfectly healthy kidneys and decided I wanted to see if I was a match and if so donate one of my healthy kidneys. The clinical evidence on living with one kidney indicates I did not put myself in grievous harm (other than what a typical surgery entails). I will admit to being selective on to whom I’d donate. When I originally matched and the transplant team wanted to look for a closer match – I considered doing a blind donation. But I don’t think I would have ever gone through with that. And it’s not because Lisa is a physician and my boss – but its more about knowing she will do everything she can to protect that kidney. I also know that her lifestyle did not create her need for a kidney, and frankly if I’m going to undergo surgery, time off work, etc., it was important to me that my kidney went to someone I know and someone who did not cause the damage intentionally. This does not mean that I don’t believe that someone who has a need for a kidney due to damage they caused doesn’t deserve a new one. I just wanted my kidney to go to a good home and I could not guarantee that with a blind donation.
I know that Lisa, her family and friends are very appreciative of what I did. I know that this has been life-changing for Lisa, has improved her quality of life (no dialysis!), and hopefully for the long-term. I know that some people question giving away a perfectly fine body part, don’t understand the rationale behind my decision – but I don’t feel it’s my job to change those perceptions. I’m comfortable with my decision.
There was also a discussion about if it’s still my kidney. My answer is no. While I took care of it for 42 years and it served me well – it’s moved on. Brutus is all yours Lisa! I appreciate the updates, but I don’t feel as a donor I’m owed progress reports – if I donated blood I would have no idea where it went…. Of course, I’m interested, I’m a friend – but as past owner, I don’t ever want Lisa to feel that she has to keep me updated or feel bad if this doesn’t work. I feel naming it Brutus is penalty enough.
Now then, hopefully that is clear and everyone should also know that I too have gained from this journey. I have met so many fabulous people in the health care system (the nurses and aides that took care of me especially), friends of Lisa, her family and also renewed and strengthened some relationships of my own. In those days and hours pre-surgery, I was terrified. The kind notes and gestures from folks I don’t even know and those that I do have meant the world to me. And I really learned who my friends are. This has also made me move from my comfort zone and push boundaries I certainly wouldn’t have in the past – that is a priceless benefit. My life is changed for the better from this journey – so Lisa – thank you.
One more thing – during the initial days post-surgery, my sense of humor was lacking. Our most humorous PR folks from WellPoint sent a Minnesota Gophers ball cap – so I could commiserate with Brutus. Lisa received a Ohio State Buckeyes cap. I didn’t find it so funny – this is a Buckeye Nation! But now, with time and Brutus prevailing and the Buckeyes thumping the gophers in football – I finally get it. And when Lisa and I have a chance we’ll take a picture in our respective hats and I’ll be proud to be a Gopher (for like 5 minutes). So Janice and Lori – thank you! 🙂