Wednesday, January 5, 2011

To be a Donor

I'm taking a moment away from vegan blogging to write a quick note about something I don't actually talk to much about, but recognize that it is a very important subject, and has the potential to save so many lives. I'm referring to organ donation.  I never thought about this much, but I always checked the box when getting my license.  I always assumed that when I go, I wont be around to worry about my organs anyways.  That was until about 13 years ago, my father, while undergoing a routine exam for his heart, was given a contrast dye, which ended up destroying his perfectly healthy kidneys (there was no heart problem as it turned out).  This was a rare statistical anomaly, but its one of those things you generally sign away when giving consent to have a procedure done.  

By the fall of 98, by father was in "end stage renal failure", and was getting out of bed hourly, and going to dialysis several times a week.  That fall, I began the process for being evaluated as kidney donor. Without getting into too much detail, I basically became a regular fixture at the Cleveland Clinic while they evaluated me from top down to make sure I was a good candidate.  Sometime in November that year, I was cleared for donation, and the date was set.  Jan 5th, 1999.  12 years ago today, I donated a kidney to my father.

Yes, thats us clutching our sides with our personal stuffed animals. Mine was a platypus

Most of my friends don't even know about this, as I am intensely private about my personal life, and I really dont look for attention when it comes to these things.  I'm not writing this entry for any reason other than to just tell people to consider being a donor.  According to UNOS, over 100,000 people are waiting for organ transplants.  Living donation helps bring this number down and saves lives.  Over 6000 donations were made last year (average) by living donors.  This includes kidneys, liver, lung, intestine, and pancreas.

Today the procedure is much less invasive. This was my 14 inch incision

The procedure has advanced quite a bit over time.  In 99, only one or two hospitals in the country were doing this laproscopically, and Froedtert in Milwaukee was not one of them.  I'll never forget flying there on the 2nd of Jan from Cleveland in a snowstorm.  We were concerned about getting off the ground, when I was informed that since I was "transporting" an organ for donation, a military or coast guard plane could be summoned to take me.  That was a moment that actually freaked me out considerably.

The surgery was a success though, and my fathers health improved immediately.  We spent a week in the hospital, I spent the next 2-3 in Wisconsin, before returning to Cleveland.  All told, I missed about 3 months of work.  With the advances made since then, I'd probably only miss a week now.

I honestly don't think about this too much any more, as we have both healed and moved on.  For me there was never a decision to make, I always knew I would donate.  That doesn't mean this was easy.  It was a tough time emotionally for me and my family.  Now, my father is doing well, and has never had any rejection issues.  Besides the daily medicine regimen he is on, there are no lingering issues.  The problems was solved 12 years ago today, and if it wasn't for a note my dad sent me last night, I may have let this day pass without notice as well.

Whenever the subject comes up regarding "the transplant", everyone
tells me how lucky I was to have had (and still do),  a son with the
courage and character to step up. .  Of course I knew then, and still
do, that you were someone special.  I'm a very proud and  lucky guy to
have you for a son.

When thanks isn't enough,

Love dad


  1. thank you for sharing... this is SO wonderful that you were able to do this for your father, and that everything is well! one of my very good friends did the same for his mother - there was never a question for him, it was just a matter of them giving the okay!

    you're awesome.

  2. That's so awesome - what a wonderful gift to have given your father. Geez, what do you get him for Christmas and Birthdays after that? I have a hard enough time figuring out what to get my old man..! Seriously though, this is such an awesome post, thanks for sharing!

  3. This is inspiring! Thank you for sharing something so personal and IMPORTANT!

  4. thank you for the comments :)

  5. I was doing okay until I got to the part with your Dad's note. That choked me right up! Your Dad is right - you are special

  6. thank you, that is a pretty good note :-)