Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Different Kind of Generous

I got a call a few weeks  back from my niece Jessie. She cut to the chase pretty quickly:

"My friend Allison needs a kidney and I'm a match, I'm gonna be a donor."

(Mental time out- this is what happened to my thoughts-cue Twilight Zone music) 

Wow. OK. silently trying to soak in this information is a bit of a trip. Almost instinctively I asked myself if I could ever do something like that. I didn't think so. Maybe for my kids, or a sibling? Hmmm I wonder? How 'bout a friend? It would have to be a pretty good friend to even consider it. Heck no, I don't think I'm that kind of generous. Actually, come to think of it- I haven't even checked off the box on the back of my license to be a donor as I'm not even sure yet that I won't need my kidneys after I'm dead. Clearly Jess and I are in a different place. Giving away organs is a whole different kind of generous. Its not  even like a scrooge-after-the-three-ghosts-generous, it's more like a Jesus-kind-a-generous. GULP. 

(Mental time in-wake up- you're still on the phone-resume the conversation.)

 There was an awkward silence for a few seconds before I found my footing. What I could determine very quickly was that Jessie wasn't calling to ask my permission or even to get my opinion. She simply needed my ears and more importantly, my heart. To be honest I was relieved to be in that position and decided to keep it that way by not weighing in on 'what I thought' Jess should do. (I was not the lead role but was hoping for a best supporting actress in this drama.) I asked how her husband Steve felt about it and she confirmed he was incredibly supportive. 

The rest of the conversation came easily as she breathed a sigh of relief and was able to give me details. A few months ago she called her friend and her Mom informed her that Allison, who has Cystic Fibrosis; and has already undergone a double lung transplant, now needed a kidney. Her family members were being tested. Jess says she hung up the phone and turned to her husband and said aloud "None of their kidneys are going to work; I'm going to be her match and I'm going to give her my kidney, I know it." She said afterwards she laughed, but that from that moment on, she knew from someplace inside that was right and true. Sure enough, as each person was ruled out or stepped back, Jess stepped forward and offered to be tested. She was indeed a match. The screening process is a long one and there is plenty of time to assess, and reassess, and re-reassess that decision. Plenty of long grueling time.

She was hesitant to tell anyone else, even in the family as she knew that she would be likely to hear plenty of opposition. People who love you are very likely to have some pretty strong opinions over whether or not you should give away body part's; particularly while you are still using them.She has children to consider and her own life and health after all. What if it didn't even work?  She was already hearing various strains of "BEWARE DOROTHY !!! GO BACK!!!" as she scooted around her small town from locals. Each of these warnings made Jess rethink the whole thing again, hesitate and doubt herself and her decision, only to return once again to it a bit stronger.

Shortly before the surgery, when nerves were running high she called for my ears again. She told me someone was questioning her motivation. So I stopped her and put the question to her plainly: "Jess what is your motivation for doing this?" Without hesitation she answered me:

There can only be one motivation.
 My friend is sick.
 She needs a kidney.
 I am a match.
 She can have mine. 

I felt instantly humbled. The surgery took place yesterday. I stupidly had no number for her and spent the better part of the afternoon wondering how she fared.So like all of us living with modern technology, I checked her facebook page wondering what kind of support one offers to an organ donor in the world of facebook. Was that even possible? Sure enough a plethora of well wishes flooded the screen.

Allison is recovering nicely from what I hear and her new kidney is already functioning. Jess came through the surgery beautifully too, and when I spoke to her this morning she sounded peaceful and well. She is genuinely happy to have given this gift to her friend. A gift of life.  She is a hero in my opinion.

 Love you Jess! xoxo
(P.S. Fred and the boys send this song out to you and Allison both!)

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