Who Are We (Living Donors)?

Several months ago, I wrote here about co-writing a Patients’ Foreword for a medical textbook, Living Kidney Donation: Best Practices in Evaluation, Care and Follow-up. The following excerpt from the foreword, addressing transplant professionals, describes us living donors simply and honestly:

Who are we? We’re loved ones: mothers and fathers, wives and husbands and partners, daughters and sons, sisters and brothers. We’re also caring friends, neighbors, and members of your community. And some of us are just average, empathetic people who simply saw a need—even in someone we don’t know—and wanted to help.

What we’re not are saints, super-heroes, or natural risk takers. Thanks for the praise, but that’s not what it’s all about. Please don’t perpetuate the idea that someone needs to be superhuman to step up to save a life by undergoing a comparatively low-risk surgery. That attitude may intimidate some potential living donors.

Bravery has little to do with it. Personally, I’m a wimp: I faint at flu shots. But when my adult son’s kidneys were failing, and I was the only healthy family member with a compatible blood type to come forward for donor evaluation, I ultimately donated to him in 2006 (paired donation was in its infancy in those days). My son didn’t have any risk factors for kidney disease, and we had no family history; all he had was a strep infection that caused his IgA nephropathy. We want people to understand that what happened to our families can happen to any family. . . .

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