As a self-professed hypochondriac, I never considered being a living organ donor. I had checked yes on my license and was all about my organs being used to save people once I no longer needed them. But the idea of giving one up that I was still happily using was not on my “to do list.” However, when my sister called in a heart wrenching panic to tell me her husband was in kidney failure, I volunteered to get tested. I never thought I’d match. I did. On July 11th, 2007, I popped some Xanax and went to the University of Maryland Medical Center to have my left kidney ripped out (I’m sure it was done more surgically accurate than that) and put into my bro-in-law. It took a lot of prayer to convince me it was the right decision. It also took me looking into the eyes of my five and eight year old niece and nephew. Since donating, I’ve become an advocate for living organ donors, raised over one-hundred-thousand dollars for the UMMC Transplant Center and the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland.
Along with another living kidney donor, I have the trademark for Giving While Living to bring awareness to organ transplants. While I acknowledge that living donation is not right for everyone, I do believe checking yes to be a deceased donor is the right thing to do. It saves lives. And what is better than knowing that you saved a life?
I read an amazing book recently called When Death Becomes Life by Dr. Joshua Mezrich. It’s a fascinating look at the history of organ transplantation and makes me grateful for all the people who went before me, having the guts to donate body organs before the process was perfected. My surgery was laparoscopic. I don’t know what I’d have said if they told me they were cutting me in half to remove my kidney. Today, they are able to do a single incision and bring it out through the navel.
If you have interest in becoming an organ donor, a great starting place for information and research is Donate Life. Ask questions, get answers, and discover if it’s right for you. Currently there are over 100,000 people on the waiting list for life-saving organs. Many won’t last long enough to make it to the top of the list.