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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One response to “a lifelong mission

  • Bob

    That’s truly fantastic that you’ve been able to inspire someone to sign up for the National Kidney Registry. Thank you for taking the extra effort to make your story known!

    In my opinion, Melissa, you did indeed help every single person waiting on the transplant list, even if ever so slightly. Think of it like you are at the grocery store and there is only one register open and you are at the end of a very long line. Then, a second register opens up and the new cashier says they will take just one customer. They don’t choose you, but they choose someone else in line in front of you. Yeah, you didn’t get to check out yet, but you are at least one step closer to getting out of the store.

    By the way, I read in the article that you grew up in Wayne. I actually grew up one town over, in North Haledon, and my parents still live there today. Sure is a small world.

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