On Trying to Donate a Kidney: The Fly in the Ointment

A pen and ink drawing of the kidneys from Gray's Anatomy
A pen and ink drawing of the kidneys from Gray’s Anatomy

Mysterious practices, multiple entrances, confusing requirements, authority figures dressed differently with clothing often suggesting power and authority: hospitals and churches have these in common.

Another commonality: Both seek to move people from one level of existence to another. From physical illness to health, from unredeemed sinner to saint. And both encounter much resistance on the part of humanity: most resist the hard work of forming and practicing the disciplines necessary for healthy body and healthy souls.

These thoughts danced in my head after three days of intensive tests, physical and psychological, as I seek to donate a kidney to my brother. All took place at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA, one of the top five US transplant hospitals. Hands-down, the number one center on the west coast.

My brother lives near, so it was an easy choice, but a hard system to break into. Just as there are often demanding requirements for church membership, there are also demanding requirements to enter the living donation program. No sense in going through the expense of clearing a donor for a specific recipient until the recipient is cleared as a qualified candidate for a transplant.

My brother went through extensive pre-testing late summer before he began his series of qualification appointments. Final approval came In September.

My process began. First, a giant blood draw, done in Texas and shipped to UCLA for analysis. Same blood type and 50% compatibility make me a good possible donor.

Normally, potential donors have a series of appointments at UCLA spaced by weeks. However, to minimize travel expenses and time away from work, out-of-town donors are treated differently. All appointments are crammed into three days.

And I do mean crammed. Multiple nearly back-to-back appointments ranged from blood and kidney function tests to chest x-rays to educational sessions to evaluations by a social worker and a psychiatrist to sessions with physicians and finally the transplant surgeon.

Many of my friends have jokingly (I think!) wondered what a psychiatrist would do with me. His job was to determine my level of intellectual functioning just in case I sense post-surgical decline in that area. At the end of our interview, he announced, “You are a very bright woman.” It took much self-control not to answer, “I could have told you that and saved us both a bunch of time.” But I managed to refrain.

At the end of the second day of appointments, which had started at 5:15 am, my brother joined me at the convenient on-campus hotel where I stayed. He brought his wife, another good friend, snacks and makings for excellent margaritas. In the relaxed conversation that followed I mentioned how well I’d been treated all day. Few waits, an apology if one occurred, friendly receptionists, and people going out of their way to guide me through the maze of buildings I had to navigate when walking from one appointment to the next.

My brother’s response: “Yes, this is a well-run hospital. More importantly, donors are rare and precious and very much honored here. They appreciate you and want to do everything possible to make this a pleasant experience.”

Pleasant as they sought to make it, my last two appointments delivered some difficult news. By then, most test results were already in–pretty impressive, by the way. As I expected, they affirmed that I am in simply excellent health except . . . one test indicates I may be in the beginning stages of my own journey into kidney failure.

We all hope this is an anomaly–possibly simple dehydration from having flown the day before as it generally takes me a while to rehydrate after flying. A definitive answer will come in a few weeks after follow-up testing in Dallas.

I ask for your prayers–and for your greater awareness of the transplant situation. In southern California, a person placed on the transplant list has an average wait for a cadaver kidney of five to seven years. My brother was told to expect a ten year wait for his blood type. Obviously, there exists a huge need healthy living donor kidneys. Buying and selling of kidneys has become a common practice of parts of the world, but is fortunately illegal in the US.

The decision to donate carries absolutely no physical benefit to the donor and carries some risk. Full recovery: six to eight weeks, although most can go back to work sooner. Obviously, the call to donate only comes to a few. But if you sense you are one of those called, you could be giving life to another.

FYI: should a donor face later kidney failure, he/she is automatically placed at the top of the transplant list.

The people of God to be live-givers in every possible way. If this might be your way, let’s talk.

"You don't suppose that headlines like this from USA TODAY:"Men of God hid it all': ..."

From 95% To 5% Church Attendance: ..."
"The pope also tells people that god made them blind or deaf; very strange supreme ..."

We Can’t Help You: Jesus Tell ..."
"Separate church and state? Fantastic-separate tax breaks and housing allowances from all religions asap."

We Can’t Help You: Jesus Tell ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Lynda Schupp

    I will keep you in my prayers. I was concerned since there was no reason for your brother’s issues you might have the same. I’ve been a registered organ donor (after death) for about 40 years, before it was popular. I’m too old to be a marrow donor. Would consider live donation if needed, but probably wouldn’t get far even though I’m healthy. I’ve had some medical things that I suspect would automatically disqualify me. But I do donate my platelets. All that to say I’m your cheerleader and hope your efforts pay off for your brother. And don’t forget I’m available if you need some help. Happy new year!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  • Lynda Schupp

    I will keep you in my prayers. I was concerned since there was no reason for your brother’s issues you might have the same. I’ve been a registered organ donor (after death) for about 40 years, before it was popular. I’m too old to be a marrow donor. Would consider live donation if needed, but probably wouldn’t get far even though I’m healthy. I’ve had some medical things that I suspect would automatically disqualify me. But I do donate my platelets. All that to say I’m your cheerleader and hope your efforts pay off for your brother. And don’t forget I’m available if you need some help. Happy new year!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  • arbitrament

    K donor here, altruistic. I always wondered why clergy and med workers aren’t first-in-line for these donations! They don’t call them Good-Samaritan donations for nothing. Maybe these professions feel they are already doing enough… but it reminds me of many of the folks who avoid military service — let my sons (Marine, Air Guard) do it.

  • arbitrament

    K donor here, altruistic. I always wondered why clergy and med workers aren’t first-in-line for these donations! They don’t call them Good-Samaritan donations for nothing. Maybe these professions feel they are already doing enough… but it reminds me of many of the folks who avoid military service — let my sons (Marine, Air Guard) do it.

  • This is an excellent piece. Please let people know that there are incidental costs associated with donating a kidney that sometimes make it hard for even willing living donors to donate. In such situations the American Living Organ Donor Fund is here to help. We help living organ donors of all kinds (kidney, liver, bone marrow, lung, intestine, or pancreas) with their non-medical out-of-pocket donation related expenses, such as travel, lodging, lost wages, and potentially more. We do not have an income cut off but we do require applicants for financial assistance to demonstrate need for our assistance.

    See our website for (1) Who we have helped so far (2) A state by state listing of resources available to help living organ donors — top menu bar “assistance for donors.” (3) recent articles on living organ donor health issues and politics, and (4) an application for us to consider helping a living organ donor’s donation less financially burdensome. Note the average out-of-pocket expense is $5,000. Only 8% of the U.S. population has that much discretionary income in a month and can donate without going into debt or dipping into savings. Also note 20% of Americans have no savings. We are there to help make donations possible by helping living organ donors. Donating an organ is sacrifice enough — such heroes should not also have to suffer financial losses.

    See http://www.ALODF.org

    Sigrid Fry-Revere, J.D., Ph.D.

    TEDMED speaker, 2014

    Co-Founder, American Living Organ Donor Fund

  • This is an excellent piece. Please let people know that there are incidental costs associated with donating a kidney that sometimes make it hard for even willing living donors to donate. In such situations the American Living Organ Donor Fund is here to help. We help living organ donors of all kinds (kidney, liver, bone marrow, lung, intestine, or pancreas) with their non-medical out-of-pocket donation related expenses, such as travel, lodging, lost wages, and potentially more. We do not have an income cut off but we do require applicants for financial assistance to demonstrate need for our assistance.

    See our website for (1) Who we have helped so far (2) A state by state listing of resources available to help living organ donors — top menu bar “assistance for donors.” (3) recent articles on living organ donor health issues and politics, and (4) an application for us to consider helping a living organ donor’s donation less financially burdensome. Note the average out-of-pocket expense is $5,000. Only 8% of the U.S. population has that much discretionary income in a month and can donate without going into debt or dipping into savings. Also note 20% of Americans have no savings. We are there to help make donations possible by helping living organ donors. Donating an organ is sacrifice enough — such heroes should not also have to suffer financial losses.

    See http://www.ALODF.org

    Sigrid Fry-Revere, J.D., Ph.D.

    TEDMED speaker, 2014

    Co-Founder, American Living Organ Donor Fund

  • Stumbled across your blog. I’ll be praying that the test is nothing to worry about and any further testing shows no sign of any problems! Thank you for documenting the testing process, it’s interesting as I’ll likely be donating to my 3 month old who was born with renal failure at some point in the future. Blessings.

  • Stumbled across your blog. I’ll be praying that the test is nothing to worry about and any further testing shows no sign of any problems! Thank you for documenting the testing process, it’s interesting as I’ll likely be donating to my 3 month old who was born with renal failure at some point in the future. Blessings.

  • Pingback: An Unsweetened Lent and a Denied Kidney Donation | The Thoughtful Pastor()

  • Pingback: An Unsweetened Lent and a Denied Kidney Donation | The Thoughtful Pastor()

  • Gills

    Dear Sir /Madam,

    Hello ,Do you want to buy or sell your kidney for money, Hightop hospital is urgently in need for O+ve and A+ve kidney donors with any passports require. If any one is willing to donate or buy please contact us through

    my email id_ (hightopspecialist12@gmail.com)

    Waiting for your responds

    Best Regards….

    Dr.Gills

  • Dr HUSSIEN SOBY

    <<< A kidney is bought for a maximum amount of $750,000.00US Dollars. The National foundation is currently buying healthy kidney. My name is Dr Faisal Naeem, am a Nephrologist in the kidney National hospital. Columbia Asia Hospital is specialized in Kidney Surgery and we also deal with buying and transplantation of kidneys with a living an corresponding donor. We are located in Indian, Canada, UK, Turkey, USA, Malaysia, South Africa etc. If you are interested in selling or buying kidney’s please don’t hesitate to contact us via Email: dr.hussiensoby@gmail.com
    Need Geniune Donors
    Waiting for your responds…
    Best Regards
    Dr HUSSIEN SOBY
    Contact: +91-8454-893-553

  • Dr Bartholomew Williams

    Your Attention Please,
    Wait! Consider selling your kidney as an Option. ROME MEMORIAL HOSPITAL is urgently in need of Kidneys and Livers, Message us immediately. The National foundation is currently buying healthy kidney. My name is Dr Bartholomew Lucas, We operate in ROME MEMORIAL HOSPITAL. Our Hospital is specialized in Kidney Surgery and we also deal with buying and transplantation of kidneys and Livers with a living an corresponding donor. We are located in NEW YORK, ITALY, CANADA, SPAIN, RUSSIAN, GERMANY, TURKEY, UK, FRANCE ETC: If you are interested in selling or buying kidney’s please don’t hesitate to contact us via Email : romememoriallhospital@gmail.com
    Need Genuine Donors.

    Waiting for your responds…..
    Best Regards….
    Dr Bartholomew Lucas