A Kidney for a Stranger?

“You’re doing what?”

I recently joined a Kidney Donor Facebook group, trying to learn as much as I can before ‘the big day’ (30 days from now, but who’s counting?) I want to be informed and prepared as much as possible, and the group has been inspiring to say the least. 

There is a common story I read that has me utterly astonished. Many of the donors have given a kidney to perfect strangers! I mean, did they simply wake up one morning and say, “Hey, I’ve got two of these, let me see if I can get rid of one?” 

Some responded to a Facebook post, some read an article and felt compelled to respond. Some have lost a loved one to kidney disease and want to prevent someone else from experiencing the same loss. Some simply decided that’s what they would do.

Over and over they write about it being the most amazing experience, something they never regret. (There are a few, but very few, exceptions.) They express joy at the ability to give life. To a complete stranger.

I am in awe. 

I get the part about giving to a relative. When my son found out his kidneys were giving out, there was no question in my mind I wanted to give one of mine. I was made for this. He’s MY son! Shucks, I’d give up both, plus my right arm if he could be healthy. 

I wasn’t surprised when my other children called and offered to be tested. They are still young. That’s got to be scary, but they’d do it for their brother.

I was amazed when friends offered to be tested, not surprised, but amazed. It seems to me that this bit of literally giving part of yourself for someone else’s child, is almost beyond comprehension. 

Would I be willing? I have never considered it. Of course, since knowing our son’s kidney issues since birth, I’ve always harbored the hope that I would be able to help when the time arose. Maybe that’s why I never thought of giving to someone else. Maybe I never really understood the need. I am not a bad person for that. I don’t feel guilty or uncaring. Still, I have nothing but admiration and awe for these self-less people. Giving when they didn’t benefit in anyway except for knowing they helped make someone’s life better for doing so.

If one of my children came to me and told me they were considering being a live donor for someone they’d never met, I’m not sure how I would react.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. When my children called to see if they could be tested, my heart tensed, and my gut formed a knot.

I wouldn’t tell them no, but I didn’t want more than one of my children to be at risk, to undergo surgery, to face the unknown. Not unless entirely necessary. 

“Wait,” I told them. “Let me see if I match first.”

The reality is, so much of life is an unknown. I could be killed on the way to the grocery store. I could get an infection or a disease that could leave me crippled or worse. A head injury could leave me unable to speak. Or write. Or think like myself. Everything I have or love can be taken away. Very little in life is guaranteed. We never know what can happen.

There is something we can know. One constant that will never change. There is One who knows what we need and died to provide it.

My heart is defective. Unlike a kidney donor, a heart donor must die. There is One that volunteered to die so I could live. One willing to give me a heart transplant. 

Like transplant recipients, my body’s natural reaction is to reject the new heart. It’s foreign. It’s out of place. My body doesn’t know that it’s there to give me life. 

So, like transplant recipients, I need to keep up with the meds: reading my Bible, praying, learning to accept that my life is not my own but has been bought with a price. Rejoicing in the gift I’ve been given.

I read an interesting article posted by someone on the FB group. It seems some people claim they’ve taken on cravings and personality traits their donors had. I’m not so sure that there is a direct correlation there, but it was a fun idea. Hmmm. Could be material for a future book.

When it comes to spiritual things, though, it is true. That new heart? It changes who I am. Creates new cravings, new desires, new purpose.

I have to up the meds.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalms 51:10

Thanks for joining me as we live to smile another day!


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