Benefits of being a donor: the goodness of humanity.
January 2, 2019……the day my life changed forever. All I had to do was lose 5.5 ounces.
True, my surgeon had to go in and extract my left kidney, but my experience has been so impactful and transformative I’d happily relinquish a kidney every year if I could.
I understand that not everyone has the same donation story, and I completely respect the fact that some people actually have journeyed a very troublesome road. The potential challenges of donation are not lost on me, and it pains me greatly that some friends have walked the path of some most difficult situations.
With that said, here’s my brief recap of my perspective on some of the benefits of being a donor.
It started with a bang months before I donated. I became connected with the most incredible collection of friends at the University of Washington in Seattle, those of my medical team. They’re my UW family now. I’m not kidding, every single person I encountered in my days at UW was simply astounding – kind, caring, considerate, you know, the type of things you value in your best friends…..and to top it off, I received the most complete physical ever!
Knowing I had a strong desire to stay active post-donation, a little research prior to donation led me down a road over the next two years where I became connected with an army of the most incredible people:
- I met my Colorado donor sisters – they’re AMAZING!!
- Was mentored by my now dear friend Amy – also a kidney donor at UW;
- Met numerous recipients through the UW kidney support group;
- Was invited to join Donor to Donor, a national kidney advocacy group;
- Became involved with Kidney Donor Athletes, recently invited to their board of directors;
- Connected with incredible people directly around the time of my donation:
- Janelle, a kidney donor athlete from NJ who donated at UW just before I did,
- Melissa (her recipient Boom) and her son Zach, she too a kidney donor athlete, he a bone marrow donor,
- and Janel a cancer survivor who recovered just a few doors down from me – we participated with my sister in the Seattle Big Climb (the Leukemia and Lymphoma society’s big fundraiser).
- Traveled to Colorado to meet over a dozen donors and hike Manitou Incline and climb my first 14er four months post-donation;
- Started Pacific Northwest Kidney Crew, a group for anyone with a kidney story through donation, kidney disease or dialysis, in the process meeting a host of local people I’ve now been able to connect with;
- Started One Kidney Club Seattle, modeled after my dear friend Patty’s group in Colorado;
- Was able to advocate through local news media and recently appeared as a guest on my first podcast;
- Had my name and story mentioned as I crossed the finish line of the Marine Corps Marathon, my first marathon, ten months post-donation;
- Shared my donation story to 30 orphans during a mission trip to the African country Eswatini with Adventure Soccer;
- Met a former collegiate soccer opponent, he now a kidney recipient – it’s an amazing story!!
- Met my recipient, his wife, his mom and mother-in-law in emotional meetups;
- Mentored other kidney donors;
- Traveled to Mexico with a dozen donors for a retreat and planning for continued advocacy.
So yes, it’s been a full year and a half since my donation.
Through all this, two big experiences really stick out.
First, I was on a hike in Bend, Oregon with Tracey Hulick, founder of Kidney Donor Athletes. Our hike location changed from what we originally intended, our start time was considerably delayed due to some logistics, but as we neared the end of our hike, wearing our kidney shirts, we stumbled across a group of ladies and kids headed into the wilderness. One of the ladies stopped and inquired about our shirts, then introduced us to her friend Amy who was in the final days leading up to her donation. It was an instant connection felt by the three of us, and we all left that encounter having felt we were supposed to be there at that time and location. It brings me chills when I hear Amy describe that day – we really were right where we were supposed to be at that moment in time, and our morning delays actually led us directly to the path of connecting.
The second big experience also came via Kidney Donor Athletes. In dealing with a lack of in-person connectedness during the early days of COVID, six of us decided to create an online kidney donor Yahtzee group simply for the reason of connecting with other donors.
Oh. My. Goodness.
We had a great Yahtzee tournament, and at the end, we decided to have a brief ‘happy hour’ to wrap up our experience together from the previous weeks. One of the donors made mention of a trip planned to climb Kilimanjaro for an upcoming anniversary, and jokingly the rest of us said “if you need anyone to come with you, we’re in”. And just like that, an idea was hatched to put together a group of kidney donors to climb Kilimanjaro for advocacy. More details will follow on what promises to be the most incredible adventure and opportunity.
It’s been an incredible 18 months since my donation, and all signs point in the direction of more amazing things on the horizon.
Did I have any idea this was in store after donating? Not a chance.
These friendships and experiences have tremendously impacted my life in the most profound ways. The goodness of humanity has been abundantly displayed. I’m grateful beyond description and I’m inspired to continue to spread love, light, and joy to everyone I come across in this thing we call life.