Yesterday, on twitter, a potential kidney donor wondered if it would be ok to ask me some questions. I sent her my email and last night heard more of her story. At the moment she's at one of the unexpected roadblocks that, in retrospect, are inevitable in such a complicated process. But, what she was really concerned with was facing surgery and the fears that go along with it.
The day before my surgery, while dropping my brother off at the hospital - they wanted to fit in one last dialysis session - I told him how the thought of the many thousands of people how were operated on and were fine was helping me deal. He answered: yes, but how many people choose to go through surgery solely to help someone else?
And so, for us, there are things on the table most people never have to face.
Like going into an operating room as an exceedingly healthy person, knowing you'll feel like hell on the other side. Accepting that you'll be giving up an integral organ, permanently. Knowing that your actions will change, if not save, someone else's life.
There are, at least there were for me, profound emotions and experiences that went along with donating. I have two still pretty young kids and a husband whose feelings and fears went into the mix. Friends and family, people close and almost strangers who called me everything from a hero, a saint, a life-saver, an inspiration, to whiny, selfish and overly-dramatic. One woman asked how I could possibly do this as one of my children might need a kidney in the future. Someone else wondered if I ever considered all that could go wrong, like not waking up after surgery. More than one donor told me to suck it up and shut up as my words might discourage potential candidates from being tested. And then others would look at me with tears in their eyes, astounded at what I was taking on.
Every experience is different, every donor's reactions unique. You can't imagine how you'll handle it until you're in it. But it changes you. Forever. Just the generosity of being tested, of contemplating this gift, is huge. Strangers I found on facebook and twitter, who've been down this road, made a profound difference to me.
And if I can pass on that donor karma, I'm grateful.