As usual, the holidays this year sped by in a twinkly, ribbony, calorie-filled blur. Weeks and weeks of preparation came and went in the blink of an eye, leaving me with the post-Christmas blues and a few extra pounds around the middle. As anyone who knows me at all can tell you, I absolutely live for holidays. My countdowns start absurdly early and my excitement grows like that of a 7 year old. But this holiday season was both special and trying for me. Special in that, in the light of my new kidney donor perspective, I’ve come to appreciate the closeness of my family so much more than ever before. I would do anything to ensure the health and happiness of any one of my relatives, and I know they wouldn’t hesitate to do the same for me. That’s why I feel a unique obligation to be for another family what I hope someone would be for mine God forbid one of my relatives were to fall seriously ill and I couldn’t help them. But Christmas this year was also trying because as I was surrounded by all these people with whom I share all the good and the bad in my life, I had a secret to keep – that I will be donating my kidney to a stranger. Of all the secrets I’ve had to hide, this was one of the hardest.
However, this secret, which I held so tightly until just the right moment, is a secret no more, and not in the least by my choice. This afternoon I received a call from Julie, the transplant coordinator at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Hospital, the center at which I will be having my surgery if, no, when I pass my final day of testing. She received my paperwork from NKR and wants to set up my big day of testing for this upcoming Monday (still pending, but fingers crossed!)! I was so excited and quickly checked with my bosses to make sure I could take the day off, and because they’re incredibly understanding and supportive, they both agreed without hesitation. I then called my stepfather to let him know about the testing but, unknowingly, he was with my mother who overheard our suspicious conversation and demanded to know what’s going on. Now, for those who have had the privilege of meeting my mom, it is immediately apparent that she is one of the sweetest, most caring and compassionate people on the planet. But if she for one second thinks something is wrong with one of her children and you know about it, boy, do I feel bad for you. After only a few minutes of unrelenting pressure, my stepfather, God bless his soul, caved, and told my mom that I needed to discuss something with her over dinner tonight. A few more minutes of intimidation and the cat was out of the bag, dinner plans were cancelled, and my mom was out in the car, crying (us Italians have quite a flair for the dramatic). This was not quite unfolding according to my plan – sitting her down to dinner at my apartment and presenting her – calmly and quietly – with a stack of information, links and videos, and a level-headed case about the safety of, and overwhelming need for, kidney donation. Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men…
So here I sit, wondering if my parents will show up at my house for dinner tonight so we can have a rational discussion, hoping and praying that I can have my mom’s full support and blessing on this journey, but willing to push on even if it is on my own (though it’s not how I would want it). I know my mom means well – she worries because she cares – but I can only hope she meets me halfway on this one. I want her so badly to see what this really is – a selfless act and, really, a testament to the way she raised me: to be giving, to be honest, and to help those in need whenever and however possible. Until then, I will continue to appreciate my family (dramatics and all), my friends, my health, and my ability to give the one gift that keeps giving with each rising sun – the gift of another day.
‘As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.’ [John Fitzgerald Kennedy]