I want to retell a story I read in the newspaper yesterday that seems almost unbelievable in a time when we are overwhelmed with people doing wrong. It’s a story of making personal sacrifice taken to new heights — the high bar for random acts of kindness.
It starts with a girl out shopping. She runs into an old friend who is very sick and needs a kidney transplant. Then and there she decides to donate one of hers. Back at work, she tells a client the story. He is so impressed by what she did, he decides to donate one of his kidneys as well. He expects nothing in return, has no one in his life who needs a transplant. There is nothing about him to set him apart from the rest of us. He lived the highlife when in the Navy, was churlish at work. His wife told him she would leave him if he did this. But to him, it just made sense. It would “cause a shift in the world.” While in the past, Good Samaritan donors were frowned upon as unstable, this initial donor had none of the red flag signs. He was stable, had no motives, was not looking for fame or glory.
This was the beginning of a chain that affected thirty transplant recipients in seventeen hospitals across eleven states coordinated by the National Kidney Foundation, computer matching innovation, surgical technique, and organ shipping. Family members who were not a match for their own, donated kidneys in an extreme pay it forward kind of way. Although they couldn’t personally save a family member life, they could save someone else. And by doing that, just maybe the right match would come their way.
This isn’t like giving blood. It’s surgery, with its inherent risks. Though minimal, (the statistics are 3 deaths per 10,000 kidney retrievals), it’s an assault to your body that it must recover from. New surgical technology makes it almost bloodless but it is surgery, nonetheless. I know we have two kidneys and only need one but I think of that as an insurance policy. If one of them runs into trouble, you have the other to rely on.
There was much more to the Times article. The human-interest side. The love stories, the low quality of life with kidney disease, what is possible now with medical advances. This is a group of people I’d like to get to know. Who are they? What led them to prepare for this ultimate sacrifice? How did it change them? What set them apart from the rest of us who would not even consider doing something like this.
It makes you realize that you can do better in all aspects of your life. Maybe there is something we can draw upon that can make us heroic. It doesn’t have to be something as big as this. But something. Think about it.