Twelve years ago, Michael became a living kidney donor.
Today, the recipient is still enjoying the incredible gift of a new lease on life, thanks to Michael’s selfless act.
I hope his story, told in his own words, will motivate others to do the same.
Maybe it will even help us find a kidney for my dear friend Jennifer Hasty.
With her unflagging cheer and irrepressible smile, Jen continues to be an inspiration to everyone she meets, despite her deteriorating health. I’d like to see that smile shine for many decades more.
“My kidney donation story started long before my recipient was sick. One night in 1996, a stranger knocked on my apartment door looking for a party that was raging one floor below me. I invited him in when I found out that he and his companions were supposed to stay at my roommate’s girlfriend’s place that evening, but she had left them stranded.
After a few drinks, I invited them to crash at my place. The next morning, I treated them to breakfast and sent them off thinking they were nice folks, but I would never see them again. However, before they left, the guy who knocked on my door handed me a piece of paper with his cousin’s phone number on it and told me to call her for a date.
I was skeptical, but I later found out that, when he returned home, he told her, “Not only do I think you’ll like him, but I would be surprised if you don’t get married.” His older brother, my wife’s first cousin, is the man to whom I donated my kidney.
Fast forward to 2003. My wife and I were in the midst of planning our wedding when we got news that her cousin, who had been sick for a few years, had mitochondrial disease. He suffered a series of strokes that caused his kidneys to shut down. The family was raising money to fund a transplant. We donated money, and I started to learn about organ transplantation – how long the wait is on the transplant list, etc.
The wait time of four to six years for a cadaver kidney was too long. However, live kidney donation is a great option. Live donor kidneys tend to last a lot longer than cadaver kidneys with a lower rate of rejection.
Unfortunately, most of his close family members were not good candidates for donation due to either wrong blood type or existing genetic kidney issues. So, I asked “What is your blood type?” Turns out we’re both O positive.
Three days later, I was at the doctor’s office giving three tubes of my blood to be tested to see how well it played with his blood. The test is called HLA (human leukocyte antigen).
Soon after, I got a call from the hospital telling me that my blood was very compatible with his. In fact, our blood antigens were so compatible that my wife joked and said, “I hope you and I are not related, or we have to call off the wedding.”
Six weeks later, I was at the hospital getting what the transplant team calls a “super physical.” I thought that they would definitely find something to disqualify me from donating. I have high cholesterol and was a smoker at that time. They ran every test from physiological to psychological, and I turned out to be a perfect candidate. Before I left the hospital they requested that I quit smoking. I agreed and countered that if I was the chosen donor, the transplant had to be after my wedding, if at all possible.
Two months later my phone rang, and the transplant coordinator informed me that the transplant committee said I was the one. They asked me to take a few days to think about it before deciding.
The toughest part of the process is letting your family know of your decision to go forward. People tend to ask donors the same questions, such as: What if you get sick? What if your future children need a kidney?
These are valid questions, but the only thing I knew for sure was that I cannot control what happens in the future, and I had a person who I could help now.
My wife and I got married on January 18, 2004, and the transplant occurred on January 29, 2004. I spent three days in the hospital, and six weeks recuperating at home.
My kidney recipient just celebrated his 12th year anniversary with his kidney. I am doing well, and my health is fine.
People can live long and productive lives with one kidney. In fact, organ donors tend to get more regular health check-ups to make sure they are healthy.
Finally, I do not think there is anything heroic about being a live donor. The true heroes are those who are very ill and manage to live life without remorse, but with grace and gratitude under enormous odds.
If anybody has any questions or concerns about being a kidney donor, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.”