Though I founded this blogsite a year ago, I’ve only more recently found Gloria Little, on the right. She has advanced kidney disease, which is ultimately fatal. I am healthy, and believe I have a kidney to spare. We think we may be each other’s blessing.
With Gloria’s permission, I’m blogging about my journey toward our hoped-for kidney transplant surgery. Did you know 13 people die daily in the U.S. – 4,745 per year – as they wait for a kidney transplant they never receive? And that doesn’t count people in other countries. (For perspective, 400 people have died in the U.S. from the coronovirus as of March 23rd).
It’s a vulnerable kind of journey. I feel intimidated by transplant surgery. I dread the isolation of weeks spent recovering from it (I’ll welcome visits). Most of all I fear physical pain; discomfort is such a euphemism.
I’m motivated by the greater pain of people like Gloria, who lives a few miles from me here in Portland Oregon. Gloria, 61 to my 59, has been on dialysis almost three years. People die an average of five years after starting dialysis. African Americans die disproportionately from kidney disease, and from pretty much any disease you can name. I really hate that fact.
And it turns out I’m not powerless about it. I can use my health, my body, my spare kidney, to shore up Gloria’s life. Possibly save it. We want to have an impact beyond one woman donating her kidney to another.
By impact, I don’t mean you or anyone else ought to donate a kidney. I know it’s not a fit for most people (though I thought that about myself until one year ago). But everyone has a big give inside of them. Possibly you are already living yours out. Big gives are shaped by our gifts, our circumstances, and our souls. And I suspect they take the shape of our community’s soul. Big gives are never solo acts, even though our culture tries to say they are.
My understanding so far – I keep sussing it out by observing the people I admire, both living and dead – is that big gives
- help redress injustice or suffering in the world
- add joy, beauty or connectedness
- happen in teamwork with others (the solo act is a Western myth)
I’ll be writing about not just my kidney donation as it unfolds, but about gives in general — big, small, all sizes. What helps us do them? And how can personal, micro-level actions (like mine) feed into the systemic, macro-level changes (like reparations) that are badly needed?
The plan is for Gloria to receive my kidney later this year; the exact date is unknown. She and I must undergo more tests first, and success is never guaranteed. But we know what success can look like. One kidney recipient I interviewed told me receiving her new kidney was like getting plugged into an electric socket. She immediately hummed with new energy. She regained her former vigorous life.
How can you help me and Gloria to have an impact beyond ourselves?
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