August 5 is special. It’s not a birthday or my wedding date. It’s not a religious or secular holiday for me. The weather is often brutally hot, and it’s always during the rush to get the kids ready for the beginning of the school year. Yet, no matter what else is going on, it’s a day for me to pause and remember.
August 5 is transplant day.
I’ve written about being a living kidney donor, both on this blog and for StoryBoard. At this time two years ago, I was under anesthesia. I remember – in that abstract way that pain induces – the couple of days in the hospital that followed. The most salient part of that time were the moments I spent in George’s room trying not to make each other laugh. Our spouses couldn’t be with us because of COVID-19 precautions, so we were each other’s only company. We were friends before all of the tests and surgery and recovery, but our relationship changed over those days into something I haven’t found the words for yet.
Today, I wonder how best to share my experience. There is a fine line between using this story to advocate for living donation and self-aggrandizement, and I strive to stay always on the former side of that divide. The doctor at my two-week postop appointment asked me to please tell other people about living donation. He said living donors are the best voices they have to help find matches for their patients. We are the ones who can say, “Did you know someone like us, with no special training or saintly disposition, can save a life? We can help just as we are by getting tested to see if we’re a match and good candidates for surgery. It hurts, but it passes, and it is worth it. You remember the echo of the pain, but not it’s intensity. It’s like childbirth that way. Think about it.”
I recently had the realization that my path to living donation started years before I realized. It’s the kind of thing that could only be recognized in hindsight. Over a decade ago, my friend Steve mentioned that someone we went to church with was an altruistic kidney donor, which he thought was incredible. That was my first exposure to the concept of living donation. That it came in a conversation with a person I admired and respected mattered. It stayed buried in my mind until the day I started to ask myself if I could do the same thing. When I started asking, that man from church was there as an example of what saying yes looked like. And it looked like something I could do.
And so, each year, I’ll share this story again. I’m what a living kidney donor looks like. And so is that man from church. And so is a priest I know. And so is the caretaker of a church in my neighborhood. Examples abound.
I’ll share it in hopes that it kindles a question in someone’s mind. If you’re asking if you could do it too, I believe you can take the next step.