Kissing My Kidney Goodbye

    Allowance was a rite of passage in our family, beginning at age five.  Mom was always careful to give us that weekly “pocket money.”  She wasn’t one of those moms who made you do chores for it, either.  It was your money, given for the express purpose of teaching kids how to handle discretionary funds.  You could spend it however you liked.  But once it was gone, that was it.  And you’d better not start nagging at the dime store after blowing it all with the IceCreamMan.  
    My mom could tell you who was a saver, who was careless and who would take on chores for extra.  Of one she said, “Let the good times roll…that child will always be broke.”  Mom knew who was flush and who was likely to ask for an advance (not that she ever agreed).  I’m not sure where she would have pegged me, but I think I settled pretty quickly into living within my kid-sized means.  I grew up without any anxiety about money, and now that I’ve met people who didn’t have that blessing, I see what an advantage I was given.  There was enough.  I admire the way Mom taught us—she gave freedom and limits.  She was tough on the rules if you pushed, but amiable in her parenting overall.
    By the time all five of us kids were on the payroll, I was aged 10.  While we were out shopping on one of those pre-historic days (no ATM’s), Mom asked one of my younger brothers to lend her a small amount until she could get to the bank.  Evidently he had plans for his cash, so he balked, while reminding her that she already owed him his pocket change from the week before.
    “I owe you?” she demanded.  “You owe me your life!” 
    I think he was all of 7 years old, and the incident became part of our family lore, repeated and embellished through the years, the perfect illustration of Mom’s bracing instructional style.  His impudence aside, Mom’s fundamental truth stands:  we are ultimately dependent on others for life itself and the knowledge of it should make us grateful and eager to share.
    In 40 days I will leave a kidney in Dallas, Lord willing.  I’m the designated donor for my sister, who started dialysis last month.  Her health challenges are many, but she has maintained an active, vigorous pace even as her kidneys have deteriorated.  We had hoped that she would be able to live without a transplant and with limited function, but it seems the time has come.
    Actually, one of my kidneys has “had her name on it” for some 5 or 6 years now.  It’s been tested, along with my overall health as a potential donor, in Minneapolis, Baltimore and Dallas.  We learned we are a match when I decided on giving the gift in 2003.  The docs in Baltimore asked me to keep the kidneys States-side rather than risking malaria on an expenses-paid mission trip to Kenya in 2005.  That’s about as dramatic as the story gets up to this point.  
    The current transplant team in Dallas said I could go wherever I pleased as long as I took reasonable precautions for my overall health.  And indeed, my kidneys have clocked a lot of miles since I began to think of giving one away.  I’ve traveled to Israel, the Philippines, and Europe in the last couple of years.  Together, my sister and I also walked through the sadness of the funerals of both of our parents in 2007.  
    Mom knew that I am the designated donor and she supported us—in fact, I think she wished we would just get on with it, when it had come to us kids to be her caregivers at the end of her life.
    So, the transplant drama receded, at least until the dialysis began last month.  I love my sister and can’t imagine life without her.  I’m in.  Not exactly ‘no big deal’ but facing the procedure had taken on a tone akin to estate planning or other eventualities which we easily and routinely ignore.  It was out there, but I wasn’t worried about it.  To be truthful, I couldn’t muster the emotional energy which was present in the early going.  But now that my sister is running the gauntlet of 4-hour treatments 3 times a week, my emotions are fully engaged and I find that I am eager to make this gift, if only to spare her suffering and help her return to full health.
    I thought about Mom’s lesson on life’s economics out of the blue the other day as I was pondering the implications of my sister receiving and carrying one of “my” organs.  After all, Mom gave both my sister and me the gift of life, our 4 kidneys soon to be divided by two. 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *