Tuesday, February 15, 2011


It's closely approaching the 5 month mark from my date of surgery. Seems like so long ago really, but oddly enough, I think of it every day. It's all good, even the not-so-comfortable memories of the pain, fatigue and a wacky digestive system that took weeks to regulate itself once again. Thanks for the prunes, Mom! The surgery was a priority in my life for many months leading up to the day, and now that the months have passed since then, donating my kidney is still a priority in my life. Sounds weird, I know, but, this experience is a very big part of who I am and nobody can rob me of that. That's what makes it special. It's between me and one other person... my recipient. It's similar to someone that has a career that consumes so much of their life, or a child that reminds you daily of your purpose in life. It's part of who you are, at least that's how I feel. I don't know, maybe it's because I don't have a child (although I was married to one), a spouse, or a career that my life revolves around.

Since this is such a special part of who I am, I feel like it's a bullet item on my 'resume of life'. Ya know, you have your list of achievements, heartaches, challenges and tragedies and somewhere, this fits in. It does in my resume, but I have a problem because I'm finding it difficult to share this with many people that are not already aware of it. I hesitate to bring it up and I'll tell you why. People do not know how to react to this.

I remember being out at a restaurant about 2 weeks prior to my surgery. I was alone and dined at the bar. I had great conversation that evening with a man sitting next to me. Ironically, he happened to bring up the topic of organ donation. So, I went with it. I told him that in 2 weeks, I was going to be donating my kidney. What was up until that point a very stimulating and interesting conversation between two people suddenly turned into a very uncomfortable and awkward moment for me. He freaked out. Really. I had barely gotten the words out of my mouth and the guy did a 360 on me and told me that we couldn't talk about it because it 'grossed him out'. Those were his exact words.

"You're doing what with your kidney?" Oh, the horror!!

So, I poured my drink on his lap and made a quick exit. Kidding. That's what I wanted to do. What I really wanted to do was ask him, "Why?" I mean, I'm not going to bring up a topic like cock-fighting with a complete stranger if I know I'm going to be turned off by the elements in the conversation. It was an unexpected and uncomfortable moment for me, but it was also just one of many that would come in the future.

Of course most people that I meet through friends and family who become aware of my experience, are curious and typically very gracious with their kind words. This is all nice and I enjoy chatting with them and answering their questions about "Why did you do this?" and "Weren't you afraid?", etc. But there are also those that just give you this blank stare. You can just read what they're thinking by the freaky expression on their face. I've had some that don't even blink an eye and quickly change the topic to something so banal and generic that it screams of "Oh my God I don't know what to say so I'm not going to say anything at all." Ok, fine. Seriously, it's ok, but as someone that has lived through such a wonderful and fulfilling experience, it's a slap in the face to ignore it. I move on and I truly won't hold it personally against them, but it does make me wonder... What are they fearing in this?

So, my brilliant mind is telling me that what they are fearing is what they don't know. I don't want to sound all Dr. Phil here, but c'mon, wouldn't you all agree? Back me up on this one, will ya? It's very difficult for some (I've been told by dear Mom) to understand why someone would want to electively do what I did. Hey, I get it, I do. Maybe it's just my ever-inquisitive mind, but, if someone told me something that I knew nothing about, I would go out of my way to get as much information from them as I could. Isn't that how we learn and grow? I realize that we're not talking about something as common as car repair, but it's got to be even moderately interesting to know something about organ donation, right? You don't think I'm sounding biased, do you?

Sure, maybe I'm a teensy-weensy biased, but this is precisely how I made the decision to become a donor. I was having a conversation with a co-worker. He brings it up and I ask away. I was so damn curious that I went straight home after work that evening and spent hours researching it online. How are we as living donors expected to raise awareness and spread the word about living kidney donation if we can't find willing listeners? I always said that I would listen to anyone discuss anything as long as they were educated and passionate about their topic. You're not going to find someone more passionate about it, and I'm continually educating myself daily so that I can fill in the blanks to curious listeners.

I would be interested to know, from other donors reading this, what kinds of reactions they have received when the topic is brought up with strangers. Maybe it's just me? I would also like to know how other donors go about bringing this up in conversation. I can assure you that it's not something I feel is appropriate for every situation, but once you get involved in conversation with someone, do you sometimes feel it's something better left unsaid? Blogging about my journey has been my outlet, for the most part. I could never imagine trying to share all the information I've shared here with people I meet on a daily basis. I guess I just want to be able to continue to comfortably do so, but face to face. I'm living proof that people don't have to feat this opportunity. As I've mentioned here in the past, I know that this is not something for everyone, but please embrace the opportunity to learn more about it. Donating the gift of life to a stranger should never be a topic that is dismissed by others. It's my pleasure to try my hardest to make it a topic that we can all embrace.

Until next time... I miss my strappy heels and my summer dresses... bring on summer!