This is one of those stories that might be what my high school literature teacher called “undeveloped.” It could change theme at any moment, fail to have one altogether, or a variety of other literary fails. But, I need to get the thoughts out. And now.
When you sign up to donate a kidney, you’re told a lot of things that you’ll need to consider before you are deemed eligible. They range from the obvious like “you’ll have scars” and “it might hurt,” to the tougher things like “what if the person dies before it even gets there” and “what if it’s dropped on the floor and never arrives.”
You have to grapple with all these ideas – and have responses – before you get the all clear to even start your medical/physical clearance.
What’s your motivation? Are you suicidal and this is your last act? Do you have support and what does it look like? Who knows and who doesn’t know?
And that’s all just with your social worker. Your psychiatrist gets into the crazy stuff and, yes, asks a lot about your childhood.
But, the point is – it’s all centered around you. Not the recipient, not your family. You. Why do you want to do this. What are your feelings on this or that. Sure, other people may factor into your answers, but they are not the focus.
Especially for me as I chose to be “non-directed” which means I didn’t know my recipient. A computer algorithm chose what body to put my kidney inside, not my emotions or circumstance.
And that’s where I left it – what body.
Sure, I care about this person in the sense that kidney disease sucks, dialysis sucks, being sick sucks, etc etc etc. But that body was one in thousands upon thousands and their particular situation didn’t really matter to me.
The “what ifs” about surgery and transport and the recipient’s recovery or rejection …they didn’t particularly matter to me.
About two things mattered to me: helping someone and my own recovery.
And, to be honest, that’s all I really care about now.
Why does this come up today? Why do I feel the need to process this right now?
The hospital emailed me. The mother of the recipient has a letter to send.
Now. I’m only about four months post-surgery. The hospital had always told me that when we hit the one year mark, we’d each have to decide if we wanted to meet or get to know what happened. The donor and the recipient. And. That was fine by me and I procrastinated the shit out of those thoughts.
But fuck me. Why do this eight months early. I don’t know if I want to know.
And I feel awful about it.
I’m just NOW getting some feeling back at my biggest incision. I can actually feel that part of my stomach when it’s touched. I feel it now every time I lean into a counter like the sink when I brush my teeth or do the dishes. I feel it now each day my belt is on for more than a few hours. I feel it when I have to pee so much my pants are a wee tight in the belly or when I eat too much. I feel it when I’ve just sat in a car or plane all day. The numbness is fading but a new part of my recovery is appearing.
And. It feels like the most and least selfish thing to not want to know what this mother wants to say to me. I care for her. I care for her child. I hope this situation took away some pain and fear and sickness for both of them. I hope they are better. But, I know that if they aren’t that I did all that I could.
But the thing that made this so easy for me to do was to focus on the little bit I could control. I could control my hydration. I could control my diet. I could control my schedule. I could not control my kidney function, my blood pressure, my disease risk or complications. I couldn’t control the success of the surgeons or the transport of my kidney to Atlanta. And being able to separate my focus in those ways helped me understand and control my thoughts and reactions. Because, after all, I was the focus.
This isn’t to say I don’t feel stable about the outcome. Even if this person died or the kidney failed, I’d do it again.
This isn’t to say I don’t care about this woman and her thoughts and feelings.
I just care about me more.
Right now anyway.