The Kidney Health symposium that I attended with my husband last Sunday was beneficial to me in more ways than just a long-overdue smack upside the head and the realization that I had been an idiot. Yeah, there was a lot more going on at the symposium and I feel privileged to have gone.
I got to hear the therapy stories of three different kinds of therapy for kidney failure. It was fascinating to learn how the different kinds of therapy worked. And most importantly, I was inspired by four lucky kidney transplant recipients, one of whom received a kidney from an altruistic stranger. The man was close to tears as he related the events of his receiving the kidney. “Who would do that? What kind of person just ups and goes ‘here you are’ about one of their organs? I owe that wonderful woman my life.” It was incredibly intense.
But there are these kind, wonderful people out there. Recently, I read about life saving kidney chains, linking hospitals and patients with kidneys from all over the country. These chains are started by just the sort of people that helped out the panelist that couldn’t believe his good fortune. CBS News reported on kidney chains here. And ScienceDaily News talks about the longest chain here. What is a kidney chain? As ScienceDaily News writes,
“A kidney chain provides an innovative solution. Each chain begins when a Good Samaritan steps forward to donate a kidney, expecting nothing in return. For example, say the Good Samaritan donates a kidney to a patient we’ll call John. John’s wife, Mary, would have donated a kidney to her husband, but her kidney doesn’t match. So instead of donating to John, Mary “pays it forward” by donating to a second patient, Bill. Bill’s sister is willing to donate, but she doesn’t match Bill. So she instead gives her kidney to a third patient, who she does match.
The chain can go on indefinitely, moving from hospital to hospital across the country. It stops only when a recipient does not have a friend or family member who can keep the chain going.”
As the panelists at the symposium pointed out, living kidneys have a much better success rate that kidneys harvested from somebody who recently died. People suffering kidney failure are grateful for whatever new kidney they can get, but it really is best if they can get live ones. That’s why kidney chains are so important!
So why was seeing this man and listening to these panelists so beneficial to me? Well, I mentioned before that I couldn’t settle on any sort of foundation or cause to support during my walk across America. Being there was like lifting this veil off my face. My vision became much more clear. I think my own grief issues over my husband’s condition caused me to look the other way when it came down to it. I didn’t want to THINK about his disease because I was so mad at the world and mad at him that he had it. Silly, I know, but all part of the process, I guess.
I spoke with one of the organizers of the Kidney Walk* (an annual fundraising walk for the National Kidney Foundation) and to some of the others running the symposium, and they were excited about what I’m doing. I’m going to talk with them some more and see if I can’t work out a way to help fundraise for them and help raise awareness about the existence of kidney chains and donating kidneys to people who desperately need them. Everybody has two, and we only need one. That spare can save somebody’s life!
*My husband Micah has registered for the 2012 Portland, Oregon Kidney Walk, which takes place June 16th. Please donate and help the National Kidney Foundation! He’s got a $200 goal and he’s 13% of the way there, already. Let’s help get him WAAAY past that!