Dynamist Blog

Another Kidney Experience

From Groundhog Day blogger Dave Rogers, who wasn't quite as lucky as I was with the kidney donation:

Kidney donation is a safe procedure, and it's different, I understand, today than it was when I gave one of mine to my brother on 2 June 1997. He and his bean are still going strong, as am I.

I recall watching CNN in the hospital room right around the day of the surgery when Johns Hopkins announced a new method for removing a donor kidney using a laparoscopic procedure, requiring a much smaller incision with a shorter recovery period (and much smaller scar) for the donor. As usual, my timing was a little off.

These days, all a donor actually has to have is a matching blood type; although the better the match, the easier it is for the recipient in terms of managing against tissue rejection.

If you're in good health, under 60, and actually have two kidneys (How do you know? Has anyone ever checked? Some people only have one!), you're a donor candidate. At the time of my donation, all medical costs of the transplant were borne by the government, because transplanted kidneys are orders of magnitude cheaper than ongoing dialysis and managing the health-related issues attendant to dialysis. I believe that remains the case today. I donated mine on active duty while I was a member of the Board of Inspection and Survey, (kind of like the Spanish Inquisition, but not really), and since my surgery was scheduled over our normal two-week summer break, I think I missed only three weeks of work, and a week of that was for the travel and prep work prior to the surgery. I think the recovery time for donors today is even shorter.

Kidney donation is not without risks, and you'll sign a dozen waivers that will scare the hell out of you. Driving a car is not without risk, and will often scare the hell out of you. There are few things in life anyone can ever do that will make as much of a positive difference to someone else, so it's worth the risk, in my opinion. If you know of someone who needs a kidney, consider becoming a donor.

I heartily second that sentiment. While I appreciate all the flattering emails, donating a kidney is not, in fact, an act of supreme courage or sacrifice. People do harder, more dangerous things every day. Thanks to laparoscopic surgery, my biggest incision is a mere two inches long. I'm not 100% better, but I'm at 85-90%, and that's after barely more than a week. Of course, it's a lot easier if you're self-employed, have a spouse with flexible hours, and have no kids to take care of.

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