There are still many myths about what’s involved in donating a kidney, and here are a few. I first included these in an article in 2017 and have already needed to update a couple of them because many aspects of the process have gotten easier. How many of the questions can you answer correctly?
True or False: The surgeon removes a rib to get to the donor’s kidney.
False: Thanks to minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery (the standard of care), I had two tiny slits and a three-inch bikini incision.
True or False: Donors must be young.
False: More than a third of living kidney donors are over 50. It’s the health of the kidney–plus the donor’s overall health–that counts. I was 58 when I donated mine.
True or False: Donors stay in the hospital for a few weeks.
False: A typical stay is now 1 or 2 days.
True or False: Donors need to miss work for 3 to 6 months.
False: I could have gone back to my sedentary job as an editor in 2 or 3 weeks. A laborer might need a couple of months.
True or False: There’s no turning back.
False: You can change your mind at any point. My transplant nurse coordinator, social worker, psychologist, nephrologist, and transplant surgeon all assured me that I could. My son would be told only that I had been eliminated.
I just discovered an embarrassing glitch (aka technological error) in this brief post, so I’ve corrected it and reposted. It’s drawn (and updated) from an earlier, longer post I wrote forWELD’s blog.The original 2017 article appeared on the National Kidney Foundation website.
….I’ve always been a wimp: I faint at flu shots, IVs, blood tests. And yet, in June 2006, I donated a kidney to my son, Paul. The reason is simple: his kidneys were failing and I was the only willing one who could. Wimp or not, of course, I’d do it.
He was in his early 20s when he developed ESRD [end stage renal disease]. He’d been diagnosed with IgA nephropathy when he was in college, following a lingering strep infection—not uncommon. Yeah, no hereditary disease, no diabetes or high blood pressure. He wasn’t obese. He just had rotten luck. So, in other words, what happened to Paul—and to our family—could happen to anyone.
Between us, my son and I have four kidneys—not very remarkable, except that he has three of them. I gave him one of mine about twelve years ago. The reason was simple: after spending nearly two years on dialysis, he clearly needed the kidney and I didn’t. I still had another that worked just fine so it was a perfect opportunity to share resources within the family. Today even unrelated people in different parts of the country can do the same, thanks to sophisticated computer algorithms. But this was more than twelve years ago.
My son, Paul, had the extraordinarily bad luck to develop chronic
kidney disease—which can gradually lead to kidney failure—when he was in
college. He was otherwise healthy, we had no family history of it, and
he didn’t have diabetes or hypertension. Plus he was skinny.
This post is excerpted from an article I wrote for the Fall 2018 issue of South Writ Large, a quarterly online magazine published since 2007. The theme of the issue was sharing resources, so living kidney donation was a natural fit.
You’ve already heard (and seen pix) about the living donor rally I attended this weekend in Chicago. But I’ve been eager to share some observations while they’re still fresh because it was truly the most encouraging, life-affirming experience I’ve had in years.
For 3 wonderful days I was surrounded by hundreds of people–on Saturday more than 1200–I’d never met before, but with whom I felt an incredible bond. We were from all different parts of the country (a few from Canada and one family from India), backgrounds, ethnicities, ages (many 20-30 yrs younger than me), genders, and political views. I’m guessing about the last one because politics NEVER came up. Yup, for 3 days politics did not come up–I don’t mean I avoided it, I mean it just didn’t come up, it was irrelevant.
We laughed together, teared up a lot (for both sad and happy reasons), and connected on the most basic human level. We shared our stories and nodded knowingly on hearing others’ experiences (often if we hadn’t lived it, we had worried or wondered about such things): a young woman who’d donated to her father a few yrs ago was grieving for the kidney he had lost a month before, a mother from Texas donated to her son who was on dialysis when the power was out for days during a hurricane and she lived in terror of the generator going out. There were happy tears on hearing of people who’d donated to someone from their church whom they’d barely known and now get invited to every graduation, wedding, and baby shower–a warm acknowledgment that if it wasn’t for the donors, the recipients might not have been around for these special family events. I met altruistic donors (who donate to an unknown recipient)–many were thrilled to meet their recipient and were welcomed as part of the family, some had never met even years later, one wished they hadn’t met–but all continued to be tireless champions of living donation.
I heard it repeatedly: we felt like we were among family or old friends. A sense of community that transcends demographics, politics, religion, sexual orientation–if you thought it was no longer possible in 2018, I’m happy to report that it was very much alive and well in Chicago this weekend. True, it was a very special gathering, but now I know that it is indeed possible. May you all experience it sometime soon. It’s a helluva feeling!
This post appeared on my Facebook page, April 27, 2018.