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]