My dad donated a kidney anonymously, a year ago today. We celebrated with a nice dinner, a bottle of wine, and a bonfire. We didn't talk too much about the experience, but he did mention something that I thought the DK community could help with, which is a sense of closure.
Anonymous organ donations are generally structured so that there is no direct communication between the donor and the recipient. This is a very good safeguard, since direct interactions could trigger a variety of complex and awkward interactions. An anonymous organ donation should be just that - anonymous.
My dad fully understands that, but he would have liked to have heard something back. I googled anonymous organ donation thanks, hoping to find some thanks from recipients, but didn't quite find what I was looking for. So I thought I'd ask DK - are there any recipients of anonymous organ donations out there? Any family or friends? I'd love to tell my dad some stories.
So I guess this is a "Last most beautiful organ donation" diary. My last most beautiful organ donation story is my dad's. He has always been a caring, generous and compassionate person, and often quietly so. I periodically learn (usually from others) of actions that he's taken, supporting people or organisations in need, taking a leadership role on important community and environmental issues, standing up for what's right, ethical, or compassionate. I could write a much longer diary on this topic.
Despite that, it was a surprise when he told me that he was planning to make an anonymous kidney donation. Mostly because I knew that it would be a complex and involved process. Of course I was supportive, especially once I started hearing how friends and family responded. It was a bit formulaic:
So my dad is donating a kidney.So even though I'd not actively considered doing an anonymous kidney donation (most of us have 1 more kidney than we need), I was disappointed at how strongly conventional wisdom opposed anonymous kidney donations. Doing it for a relative or a close friend was understandable, but not for a stranger. It's certainly not for me to be righteous about this, since I have not chosen to do any donations, but the more I learned, the more I wanted to promote anonymous kidney donations.
To humanity. It's an anonymous donation.
(Long conversation about how strange it is to do an anonymous donation).
Well, that's his choice.
(Long conversation about the health risks).
Well, that's what he wants to do.
(Long conversation about how brave and generous he is).
There are many scenarios where friends and family of a person in need of a kidney are willing to donate one of theirs, but they're not a direct match. So they'll pledge to donate a kidney to someone else, in exchange for a kidney for their person. The kidney market is apparently very tight, so one anonymous/unconditional donation can trigger a chain of kidney exchanges, resulting in several people receiving kidneys.
That's what my dad did. A year ago less a day, I walked into the hospital to find my dad weaker than I'd ever seen him, in a hospital bed connected to various tubes and devices. It was one of those shock moments that I knew was coming, and that will keep coming, and likely get worse, as my parents age, but I still remember the visceral sob and heartbreak that hit me when I saw him lying there, post-op, disoriented and frail. I'd never felt so protective of him.
He recovered quickly, and we spent the next few days talking about books, discussing his status with nurses and doctors, walking the hospital hallways, waiting while he napped. If you want 5-star treatment at a hospital, do an anonymous organ donation - it really was moving to see how well he was treated by the professionals who had dedicated their lives to the health and well-being of others. They seemed pretty amazed themselves.
A kidney donation takes a long time to recover from. Over the last year, recovery has included a slow convalescence where he was physically weak, and had bouts of depression. He got excellent medical attention, including regular check-ins and therapy sessions.
The recovery went pretty much the way they said it would, but of course my dad had believed that he would have a "super-recovery", minimally affected by the conventional health impacts, due to his superior physical and spiritual resilience. I'm sure he was ahead of the curve, but not as dramatically as he'd anticipated.
The donation was a major sacrifice, one that compromised his quality of life for over 6 months. I know it was a satisfying sacrifice, because he is genuinely committed to the well-being of others (including humans). I've spent the last few days with him watching as he replants flood-eroded saplings and worries about flushed-out fauns.
He knows that the kidney recipient is still alive and well, but that's it. I thought that maybe some here in the DK community had experiences from the other side, as recipients, or friends and family of recipients, who might be willing to share their stories.
And at the very least, I'm proud and privileged to tell the story of my father, the anonymous kidney donor, a brave and compassionate man, who I love very much.
My dad was very moved and appreciative of the comments (as was I) - thanks everyone!
Also, Walker22 posted a great comment encouraging people to register as an organ donor:
If you read this diary and felt good about it, can you please commit to talking about organ donation with your family and THEN registering with the national organ bank to make it official?
WE must do more than just read and agree.
No one will ask you to be an organ donor when you are dead, but the family is often asked when the time comes. And time is absolutely critical because the organs have a "shelf life." A lot of families are not sure what their loved one wants or wanted so they say no if they are asked at the hospital before the machines are unplugged---or they wait too long.
But if YOU commit, register with the Organ Bank, AND THEN put it in your medical directive (the do/do not resuscitate instructions) you will save many, many lives-----as many as 50, it is said, by "universal donors" who so designate!! Burn patients as well as desperate people who need an eye, bone, a kidney, a liver, lungs, heart.
And let's remember our African American friends have a terrible time with diabetes and other diseases, where the matching is harder. We all need to help by getting more people signed up with the organ bank.
If you are reading this, you probably became a part of Daily Kos because you feel connected with your heart as well as your mind. right?
So why not commit to taking the steps necessary now to help the wider community later on?
It won't cost a cent, but just imagine what it will mean: life.