Monthly Archives: May 2011

a lifelong mission

This week has been truly eye-opening for me. As many of you may already know, The Huffington Post asked to interview me about my donation for their Impact page and I readily agreed! Journalist Katie Bindley and I met in the city and talked at length about my donation process and how my life has changed since becoming a living donor. The interview was featured in their Greatest Person of the Day column – feel free to read my story here.

I knew family and friends and a few casual readers might stumble across my story, but I was in no way ready for the overwhelming traffic and feedback it received. Hundreds of people left comments of support, encouragement, and thanks on the story itself, on Facebook and on Twitter. It was posted, reposted, and posted again and tweeted hundreds of times. It was even translated into other languages and onto foreign news sources, as people have sent me Turkish, Spanish, and Greek versions of the story, among others. Word of my story spread like rapid fire and I immediately started getting messages and emails from people showing their support and gratitude from not only across the country, but around the globe. I’ve heard from people in Spain, England, New Zealand, Greece, Turkey, Canada… the list goes on and on. Some of these people are kidney recipients, some are donors, some are people watching a loved one suffer from kidney disease, and some are just grateful. One woman said she felt so inspired by the interview that she immediately registered with the National Kidney Registry to become a living donor herself! To say I feel honored and touched is the understatement of all understatements. As I read each and every comment, email and message I received, I was brought to tears more times than I care to admit.

What I found most striking, however, was the gratitude that was expressed. Not just any gratitude though. While I so very deeply appreciate the wonderful support and appreciation from everyone who read and reached out, it was the gratitude of kidney patients waiting on the transplant list that resonated the most with me. Here are people, just like you and me, who want nothing more than to live a healthy, full life, who are helplessly watching their bodies betray them, desperately waiting for a kidney to change their lives, and they’re thanking me for what I’ve done. My kidney didn’t directly help any of these people. These wonderful human beings who have every right in the world to be angry, bitter, and downtrodden, are anything but. In fact, they are the most genuine, optimistic, brave, and appreciative people I’ve ever come across in my life. Each and every one of them is truly happy for my recipient, truly grateful for my sacrifice, even though it has not changed their health one bit. Many of them called me a hero, but it’s not me that’s heroic. It’s them.

The response from my interview confirmed and rekindled my passion to continue my mission to promote living donation. I believe we’re all put on this Earth to accomplish something important in life – or perhaps many somethings – but sometimes it takes the courage of others to show us exactly what that is. Even before my surgery, I knew that my dedication to this cause would not end the day I left the hospital, and since then I have had the great honor of working with a very tight-knit group of living donors whose sole mission is to protect donor rights and improve the living donation system in America. We’re hoping that by utilizing each of our unique talents, sharing our personal stories, and passionately working on behalf of all current and future donors, this small group will one day become a large, national project that will identify, address, and improve both the shared and unique issues encountered by living donors. Additionally, our mission is also to provide a source or information, advice, and support for all living donors or those who are considering donation.

To that end, we have created the first of several surveys to address one aspect of donation – its financial impact on living donors. If you are a living donor, please take a few minutes to take this brief survey, or if you know of a living donor, please pass it along to them. No personal information needs to be disclosed, nor will any of your responses be made public. The survey is completely anonymous and simply asks for living donors to prioritize their financial needs throughout the donation process. If interested, you can find the survey on this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LivingDonor

Another important thing that happened to me this week, and the donor community in general, is that a woman who read my story on the Huffington Post nominated me for a CLASSY Award. The CLASSY Awards recognize top charitable achievements across the country, both by individuals and organizations. The winner will receive more than $150,000 in cash and prizes for their cause which, in my case, is the National Kidney Registry. The only way to advance to the next round of judging however, is to receive 100 Facebook ‘Likes’. If you’d like to support me and the cause for living donation, please take a minute to visit the link here and ‘Like’ it – and thank you in advance! http://www.stayclassy.org/stories/woman-inspired-by-magazine-article-makes-a-life-changing-decision-for-a-complete-stranger

Living donation is not for everyone, but there are endless ways to give back to those in need that require little effort when compared to the good in which they result. So often our busy schedules muddle what’s truly important in life. I’m just as guilty as the next person, as I, too, often get consumed by my personal issues and problems. But the next time an opportunity comes along to help someone (or some animal!) in need, I urge you to think twice. None of us are untouchable; life changes in an blinding instant with no warning and no mercy, and one day you just might be that person looking for a helping hand.

The difference between a helping hand and an outstretched palm is a twist of the wrist.  [Laurence Leamer]

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a gift from many

It’s been about two months since my surgery and I’m feeling great. For a while, my energy levels were extremely low, but I was getting antsy and bored from not doing all that much with my days compared to how my life had been prior to donation. As a fellow kidney donor so perfectly put it, I felt ‘too good to do nothing, but not good enough to do anything.’ And though I still do need the occasional midday nap, and I definitely find myself crashing much earlier in the evening, I have to say that all in all, I feel like myself again. Sometimes I’ll get a sudden pang of discomfort in various places in my abdomen – typically near the incision – but I know that’s simply my body still hard at work healing itself. I’m back to working out and running (though a bit slower than before and not covering quite the same distances I once did, but I’m working on it!) and a day full of errands no longer seems like a daunting task. My incision looks great and I even dare to say that if you didn’t know I had this operation, you might not even notice the scar. Not too shabby!

Though for the most part I’m back to life as normal, not a day goes by that I don’t think about my surgery. I haven’t heard from my recipient, but I do know from my transplant coordinator that she’s doing well, healing wonderfully, and on the track to a better quality of life than she’s known in quite some time. Despite this knowledge, I do still think about her all the time. I wonder if she’s returning to her life as she knew it before dialysis. I think about how much my life has changed since donating my kidney and can only marvel at the drastic shift I’m sure her life has taken since her transplant. Almost everyone I encounter asks me if I’ve heard from her, and then apologizes when I tell them that I haven’t. But I’m not sorry, and I never will be even if I never hear from her for as long as I live. I know that if she’s choosing not to reach out to me, there’s a reason that none of us could understand without having walked in her shoes. And I respect her decision. This was a gift, and gifts should not be given with thanks in mind. I didn’t go through with this donation with the intention of making a friend out of my recipient, I did it to save people’s lives. And if I gain a friend in the process, well then that’s just an added bonus.

But this donation was not a gift given only by me, but by all the countless people who helped me along the way. When I think about this journey, I can’t help but be humbled by the support, love, and appreciation I was shown by everyone from family, friends, former colleagues, medical professionals, the donor/kidney community, and even complete strangers. Prayers, well wishes, messages, phone calls, cards, letters, flowers, gifts, home cooked meals and freshly baked goods, hugs, kisses, time devoted, advice shared, support given unconditionally – without all of this, the gift of my kidney to my recipient simply would not have been possible. I could never thank you all enough for everything you’ve done – though God knows I will try my best. Please know that because of you, just as much as because of me, three people’s lives have been forever changed, improved, and renewed. It took my decision to begin this process, but it took the unwavering love and support of my friends and family to see it through to the end. So on behalf of myself, my recipient, and every patient out there whose lives have been saved by organ donation, THANK YOU. This was truly a gift not from one, but from many, and it is by far the most beautiful gift of them all: the gift of life.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.  [Leo Buscaglia]