I was 14 or 15 when I got my drivers license. I filled out all the forms to the best of my ability. Height, weight, address, eye color, and at the time, my social. All that was easy. Eventually I reached a box that said “donor”. I knew what it meant but didn’t really know exactly how important it was. I skipped right by it and left it unchecked. Years later I would meet my eventual bride and she asked me if I was a donor. I specifically remember saying to her “I was born with all my inners and I’m taking all of them with me when I die.” In all her infinint wisdom, she enlightened me on how incredibly selfish that was. When it was time to renew my license, I proudly checked that box but never knew how much a simple “check” would impact my life.
Several years ago I met a very special person named Phil. I worked with Phil at a retail store and I immediately was drawn to him. Phil and I hit it off right away. We became thick as thieves and soon started spending plenty of time together. My bride loved him as did my children; we all loved Phil. Phil was taken from this world far too early when he was fatally injured in a texting and driving accident. Phil was sitting on his motorcycle at a stop light when out of nowhere he was slammed into by a vehicle. The young man was texting and driving not paying attention to what he was doing. That accident cost Phil his life. However, Phil kept giving after his passing; by donating.
Several of Phil’s organs were donated to people in need. Through programs that are in place, Phil’s family had the pleasure of meeting some of the recipients. I saw how that made such an impact on the family. By donating his organs, Phil helped so many families, including his own. He helped his own family by being a hero and of course he helped so many other families by giving them life. After Phil passed there were some bracelets made up in his honor. I still wear it to this day. Phil passed away in 2012. I never really understood why I never took it off. Was/is it my way of not letting him go? Was/is it my way of honoring my friend? I constantly flip the black rubber bracelet around my small wrist. I run my fingers through the letters and often stare it. I never knew why….. Until recently.
A year prior, my brides cousin died in an accident. Like Phil, he to was a donor. His family saw the impact that he was able to have after life by giving life. I remember spending countless hours having conversations with Vic’s family about the donation process. Although hurt and sorrow filled their hearts, pride gleamed over their eyes. What better gift to give than the gift of life?
Fast forward to the summer of 2015. Like most summer nights, I was at the softball fields. Like most times when I pull up, it’s a long walk from my vehicle to my diamond. I generally stop and talk to several different people largely due to the fact that our little softball community is pretty tight. Pretty much everyone knows everyone and most times there’s a shared respect. This particular evening I stopped to talk to a friend of mine and started the conversation like any other. “How are you?” That escalated into hearing the news my friend has a kidney disease. Right then and there I started asking questions. What does this mean? How bad is it? Are you going to be ok? Will you need a transplant? Will you have to be on dialysis?
Several months have passed since that initial conversation at the diamonds. My friends kidney condition hasn’t gotten any better. He sits idly by while waiting for a phone call about a potential donor. Some people wait several years before the perfect match is found. In that time dialysis can start, health can deteriate, and worse. Luckily for my friend, his condition hasn’t gotten worse. It hasn’t gotten better either. So after years of wearing that black rubber bracelet, I now understand why. I started the process of becoming a live donor.
My experience in this process started early in the week. I was sitting on my couch playing with my bracelet like I so often do and without warning, I started thinking of my friend with the kidney illness. I started texting him asking the same questions I did this last summer. I also started asking him questions about donating. He gave me a phone number to call and after a discussion with my bride, my journey to becoming a live donor had officially begun.
My first step was to have a conversation with my bride. That conversation didn’t last long. As soon as I mentioned it to her, she agreed to it almost immediately. From there I needed to make a phone call. I spoke to the young lady at the hospital for roughly 45 minutes on that first call. The woman I spoke to was very helpful and she told me exactly what to expect. So what can I expect? The first conclusion I came to was that I can expect a very thorough process. See they won’t just let anyone donate. You have to be in both good mental and physical condition. I can expect several phone calls. Thus far I’ve talked to social workers, nurses, and my personal advocate. Most of the questions are redundant but I know they are just doing their jobs so that’s ok.
After passing the first few phases, my next step is to get a live donor packet in the mail. Upon completion of that, it’s time to start blood work, and some other physical requirements. I know that my friend and I have the same blood type so that’s a good start. God willing I’ll meet all the other requirements and my friend can have my kidney. Although I’m in the very early stages to becoming a live donor, I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life.
I was asked “Why do you want to do this?” I paused for what seemed like minutes but was only a brief second and replied “Why wouldn’t I want to do this?” After all, I have 2 working kidneys and if he doesn’t get one, he could possibly die. So why not give one so you he can continue to be a loving husband, a loved father, a respected man of the community, a trusted brother and son, and just a plain good person?
The toughest question I’ve been asked in this process was “God forbid one of your children would need a kidney down the road and you weren’t able to donate to them. How would you feel about that?” My response was “I’m not sure I could live with myself knowing that I could’ve helped my friend today and I didn’t. After all, what if my beautiful children don’t need a kidney in the future and I didn’t help when I was able to?”
Recently I heard a phrase that I really like. Everyday is a gift from God; that’s why it’s called the present. I am choosing to go down this path because it’s the right thing to do. God willing I’ll pass all the requirements and both myself and my friend will live a long, healthy life. My only regret in this process is that I didn’t make that phone call and start the process sooner when he first told me.
I hope to continue writing about my journey into becoming a live donor. I hope to write about everything including the updates on my friend living a normal healthy life. I hope to get that packet soon in the mail. I hope that I’m a match to my friend. I hope to update the tens of people that will read this with good news. I hope the next time you renew your drivers license, you check that box if you haven’t already. I hope to become a living donor. Most of all, I hope if I can’t help my friend, someone else can.