My left kidney flew to San Francisco, packed on ice, shortly after the surgeon removed it from me at 9:30 a.m. December 16th. One week later I heard back from it, and went apeshit with joy. I mean, beyond the quiet, radiant joy I was already feeling that Colleen described in the last post.
I’ll back up. And before I forget, Merry (COVID-muted) Christmas.
Gloria, pictured with me since I started this blog in March, is my beloved kidney partner. Our shared goal from the start has been for Gloria to not become one of the 13 people who die daily in the U.S. (disproportionately Black) as they wait to receive a functioning kidney.
Because my tissue doesn’t match Gloria’s*, my spare kidney was flown to a person in San Francisco whose tissue is a match. Due to my give, Gloria will receive her new, matched-to-her kidney soon, probably within February. All this is through the excellent paired donation program we’re in at Legacy. Gloria saw me off into my operating room, and I look forward to seeing her off soon into hers.
I came home from the hospital on December 18th assured by Dan and his GPS tracking that my left kidney (that I’ve named York) had landed as planned at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). But I wanted to hear about York’s new person. Able to accept him and put him to work? Was York fulfilling his mission? Dan promptly posed these questions, maybe in different terms, to his peer kidney coordinator at UCSF.
Radio silence for some days. I recovered quietly at home, walking gingerly around in my soft nightdresses, getting used to the five small incisions on my belly. (I am fond of them, and if you are female-identifying I will show them to you if you like. Guys, you can share your incisions with each other.) Friends and family texted, called, commented on my blog, sent cards. My wonderful young webmaster Max and his lovely wife Lana brought flowers. Others brought dinners. (Thor and Sura and I have thrived on those dinners . . . Adriana! Emily and Michael M.! Kristin! Jeanie! Judy and Stephen! Laud and honor to you.) I waited to hear about York’s new person, not knowing for sure that I ever would. It was its own Advent during Advent.
On December 22, 1:23 p.m. I received an email from Dan at Legacy. He had forwarded an email he’d received minutes earlier from his peer at UCSF.
She [the kidney recipient] is doing great!!!
She has been discharged home. Kidney is working well!
She was SO touched and surprised, overwhelmed, joyful, and grateful to receive this organ.
Lots of tears of joy.
And hearing of my kidney recipient’s joy made me go apeshit with joy. I quivered with supercharged energy. I started to laugh and cry at the same time, but fresh incisions make those too painful, so I found myself screaming and keening at the top of my register because the joy demanded to be released. I could feel my body and my recipient’s body connecting both on the visceral level where all of us mammals live, and spiritually, where our deepest selves and intentions live.
My organs called out greetings and farewell to York the left kidney, and heard him answer joyfully across the miles from his new home, his new person depending on him to clean her blood and help her live. I understood my organs as whales singing deeply personal songs up and down the Pacific Coast between Portland and San Francisco. They sang of their bonds, of letting go and carrying forward. They sang (and their volumes were really intense here) of their missions being fulfilled.
Thor heard my uncanny screaming and hurried downstairs to hold me while I keened awhile longer. “This is a good thing,” he murmured after I managed to explain it all to him, even the whales. He is a great husband.
I’ve read that 80% of people report having had peak spiritual experiences of some type, where they feel connected to something much greater than themselves. My understanding of life is that that interconnectedness is the true reality. We just keep forgetting, and falling back into self-absorption. I forget and fall back like that all the time, despite having had many spiritual experiences in my life. As I’ve stated before, I’m an ordinary person. Who is now happy to have become a live kidney donor.
The apeshit-with-joy experience I’ve described was cool, but was never my goal. Gloria’s new kidney, health and long life are the goal, and should soon be realized. I will keep you posted.
*Note that successful organ matches happen routinely across racial, gender and age categories. Black and white people have given kidneys directly to each other many times. That fact isn’t commonly known, and can help to save lives, so please share it. Thanks!