Would you donate a kidney?

The National Kidney Registry maintains a living database of kidney donors with a unique twist. In order to have access to the database and compatible donors, you or someone in your family must donate one of your kidneys to keep the chain going. With 200 transplants facilitated in 2010 they have literally saved the lives of people who without a kidney transplant might not be here today.

According to Katie Couric and the CBS News, every 90 minutes someone dies waiting for a kidney transplant and there are currently more than 87000 Americans on the waiting list for a new kidney.

Physically we can live with only one kidney. The actual transplant procedure takes about three hours. Modern medications to prevent rejection have come a long way and today donors do not necessarily need to be genetically similar to the recipient. A kidney transplant is considered a life-extending procedure typically enabling the recipient to live 10-15 years longer than if kept on dialysis. The bottom line is that for those with failing or failed kidneys, their life depends on a transplant.

As I learned more about this service and the incredible impact it had on families everywhere, I asked myself what would it take for me to donate a kidney? If someone I loved needed a kidney and I was a compatible donor, would I willingly offer myself or would I hesitate?

I think that all of us would like to believe that we would selflessly without hesitation say yes to immediate family members in need. Deep inside, we feel that we would likely agree to help out a close friend. But just how far is each of us willing to go? At what point would we say “no”?

I came up with a few questions to help me better understand myself and tried to answer them honestly.

  • Would I donate a kidney to my wife to save her life?
  • Would I donate a kidney to my child?
  • What about a more distant family member?
  • What about a good friend?
  • Would I donate a kidney for money? If so how much – what is my kidney worth to me in dollars and cents?
  • What unique or extreme circumstances might lead me to become a donor?
  • Would I ever unequivocally say no?

After thinking through how I would personally answer each question, I realized how difficult it is to make a final decision without actually being in the situation. For most of us it is a no brainer when it comes to family members and even close friends. But where would we absolutely say no? Without intimate knowledge of the people involved and their lives and their particular story, I don’t think we can know for sure how we would react.

I like to believe that for any given situation people will make the difficult choices to help their fellow human beings. Blood is thicker than water but love conquers all! Why else is it that we get a tear in our eye when we hear of the struggles of poor children around the world or the impact of disasters on the innocent? Why do we stand united against injustice and abuse? It is because we are basically good people and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

After I completed this exercise, I took a look at the list of those I would be willing to donate a kidney. I realized that these are the most important people in my life. Important enough for me to theoretically undergo an operation and donate one of my organs! But when was the last time I reached out to them, when did I last offer a good deed to these most significant in my life?

Although we may be fully willing to donate a kidney to someone we love, the likelihood is we will never be called upon to do so. So we need to show our love in slightly less dramatic ways. However we choose to show that we care is up to us. Just remember the fact we FEEL the love is not necessarily apparent until we SHOW the love.

Who would you add to your list?