The Often Lonely Road of Becoming a Donor

I feel fortunate that so many people reach out to me through Kidney Donor Athletes. I hear a lot from donors that appreciate the platform and community I have created, and I hear even more from potential donors.

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Now that I have been at this for a few months, I have noticed some commonalities. There are two things that I am asked about most often. 

1 – Can you connect me with a living donor that plays the same sport as me / donated at the same transplant center I will be using / got pregnant post-donation / ran a marathon after donating..? You get this idea. Reading donor stories is helpful, but nothing is quite as powerful as talking with a donor that is similar to you, or even in the same town.  I am very thankful that I can do that for everyone that reaches out to me. 

And 2 – I am shocked that people are responding negatively to my decision to donate! How can I change their minds?

**Let me just pause right here and give you a virtual hug if you are in the process of donating and are shocked that your partner / best friend / co-worker / parent /  neighbor / mailman gave you a negative reaction to your plan to donate. You probably felt surprised, hurt, angry, flustered, and maybe even lost a little faith in humanity. **

I get it. You didn’t expect that. You sat with this decision and this feeling in your gut and finally decided to move forward. You are confident that it is the right choice for you.

And then someone you expected to be supported by looked at you like you had three heads and maybe even went as far as to try to convince you not to do it. 

No one talks about this part. But it happens to almost all donors from what I can tell. Off the top of my head, I can only think of a few donors that didn’t run into this. 

Now, those people that give negative reactions, they probably think they are doing something good. Maybe they feel they are protecting you or making sure you are thinking the decision through, or maybe they know of someone that had a complication from a donation and wants to spare you the strife.

But at that moment, on the receiving end of that kind of response, it can feel like you are alone and misunderstood. And that is the last thing you want as you’re preparing to do a meaningful, courageous thing.

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Every person that has reached out to me has thought this was unique to them, and I am sorry to say, it is not. I encountered a lot of negativity when I first started talking about my plan to donate. I was so taken aback by it that I stopped talking about it for a few months. I knew there was a reason why I was so compelled to donate, and I wasn’t going to ignore it.

Thankfully I did start talking about it again two weeks prior to surgery. The day before many people who were negative and even confrontational at times sent me warm wishes. And of course, as soon as I was onto my recovery and it was clear I didn’t have any complications, all those negative Nancy’s became my cheerleaders. This is not uncommon at all.

But let’s get back to the original question.

‘How can I get them to change their minds?’ 

I am sorry to say, you can’t. Some people have their minds made up about donation, especially when it involves someone they care about. You can send them all the data and research and loads of resources (click here for starters), and if they are convinced this is a bad idea, they will stay convinced.

…  most likely until you are out of surgery and in the clear.

If you find yourself in this situation, my best advice is this:

Give the nay-sayers information about living donation.

Keep the people supportive of your decision close to you.

Reach out to me if you would like to be connected to other living donors. You are doing a GOOD thing and our community will rally around you no matter what.

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