Breaking My Silence: A Kidney Donor Speaks Up
You’re at Starbucks during your lunch break when you realize you’ve forgotten your wallet at your desk. Feeling embarrassed, you turn to the coworker standing behind you on line and reluctantly ask, “do you mind paying for my coffee today?”
If asking a friend to buy you a coffee can feel utterly embarrassing and uncomfortable, imagine the discomfort for a renal patient who must turn to a friend or neighbor and ask them for a kidney. While the guilt associated with such a request can often be crippling, what choice do they have? For over 100,000 Americans and 4 million people worldwide, this is their reality. The one thing that stands between life and death is putting forth that awkward request in the hopes that a kind stranger will willingly give them a piece of their body.
Yet, kidney patients are not the only ones who struggle to speak up. Five years ago, with no personal connection to kidney donation, I went on a personal journey to explore what was involved. I spent a year learning, contemplating and weighing the risks of kidney donation. The process itself was transformative and I am grateful that at the end of it, I was given the opportunity to share a piece of myself with another person and give her the gift of life.
Aside from my immeasurable gratitude for being given the opportunity to save Ronit, a single mother of three children, I still live with my own feelings of shame and guilt when it comes to talking about my kidney donation. I recently conducted an unofficial online poll, asking whether kidney donors should remain humble about their deed, or talk openly about it with others. I was surprised to find that more than 60% of respondents said that kidney donors should remain quiet, as if the act of donation may be a noble one, but it is a private matter and not something to brag about.
However, as a donor, I have already given. I’ve done what I can. Yet, sadly, in the United States alone, on average 12 people day die each while waiting for a kidney. Thus, if my commitment to save one life could be extended to saving many, I feel the need to break my silence and speak up, no matter how uncomfortable or unpopular it may be.