I got word from my donor (I call her my donor for confidentiality, not because she’s a thing!) on Tuesday that she has been approved to be a donor of a kidney for me. This was a process over a year long with lots of questions and frustrations on both of our sides. It’s such a long process these days in Canada that I heard from the transplant team that many people drop out of becoming a donor because it can be time consuming and generally a pain in the ass. I can appreciate that they need to make sure that every precaution is taken to ensure that a donor is going to come away from surgery – and life with one kidney – both physically and mentally in tact. From my selfish perspective, if something were to happen to the donor I would feel crushing grief and guilt. So, take the time, give lots of outs, make sure. In the beginning I didn’t understand why it took so long to do a workup, my thinking was so she has a really great physical exam but ends up not being a donor. So what? I thought that it might be financially motivated – not wanting to spend money on tests that weren’t necessary if the person couldn’t be a donor after all. That thought went through my mind because of a comment about the expense of tests by one of the team early on. It turned out that they don’t want to expose the donor to unnecessary radiation, they want to ensure that family doctors are kept appraised on everything as they go to ensure donors are getting the best possible care and information. It wasn’t money after all.
So here we are a little over a year later and it looks like we may be undergoing surgery in February. As one of my sisters said “Shit’s getting’ real”. A couple of people have asked me how I feel about all this. I don’t quite know how to put it into words. You know when someone says they’d give their left arm to…whatever. She is literally giving me a part of her body. Voluntarily. With some excitement even. I’m grateful beyond measure. How do I thank a person for something like this? Again, there are no words adequate to say thank you. I’m still nervous for her. Not for me, I’ve had 25 years to think about this. I’ve had all the time in the world to come to terms. I’ve thought about the repercussions of surgery, of having a transplant and being n anti-rejection medication for the rest of my life. I’ve thought about what life would be if there were no donor. I’ve looked at the life expectancy when on dialysis without transplant (about 8 years for someone my age). I’ve come to terms with my mortality and am quite comfortable with the idea of dying. Me dying – not someone trying to save me. I know that she’s looked at all the stats, the things that could go wrong, how most of the time they go right. I know that she has found her own level of comfort with it. I know chances are fantastic that she’ll walk away from this just fine – better than fine. I know that they wouldn’t operate if it was too great a risk. But there is that bit of fear and bit of guilt.
Why the guilt? Did I do enough to stay healthy. Maybe I could have done more and neither one of us would need to do this. Maybe if I ate a little healthier, meditated a little harder, prayed a little longer, went to great healers – I don’t know. I know that I’ve managed the disease better than most. I know that most people at 7% kidney function are feeling far worse that me. Most are on dialysis and feeling so unwell that they are truly sick people. That’s not where I am. Thankfully. I still work out and have a good appetite and am mentally good now that I’m not working. Could I do more? Statistically, no. I’ve done my part. So I should lose the guilt. I know that.
So while I work on that, I want to say I am totally in awe of my donor and her generosity of spirit. I’m encouraged that people like her exist in this often cold and mean world. I don’t really know how to say thank you for something like this but hopefully I’ll figure that out. For now, know that I have you held deep in my heart and I’m rooting for you more than you could know.