May 7, 2018
….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.
What he had was a lingering strep infection.
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.