Monday, December 31, 2007

. . . And Beginnings

Today I happened to run into the staff chaplain I wrote about in my previous post. She indeed spent many hours ministering to the family of the comatose patient, and thanked me for telling her about them instead of simply leaving at the end of my shift.

And she had some good news: when the patient died, the family readily agreed to donate the patient's organs. That patient's untimely end has now made new beginnings possible for other people.

Organ donation has been on my mind, because my friend Katharine DeBoer's brother received a new kidney on December 5th. David had gone into kidney failure from diabetes complications, and he'd been on dialysis for eighteen months. His new kidney was donated by a coworker he met only four months before the surgery, who's now lobbying for paid leave time for state employees who donate organs. Their local TV station did a three-part story, fittingly called The Gift of Life, on David and the donor, Janet. Be sure to scroll down to Part 1 so you can watch the story in order.

The evening after the surgery, I went to Katharine's house for our weekly Knitnight. (She wasn't able to fly to Vermont for the surgery, because she was still teaching, but she's there now.) As soon as she opened the door, I asked how the operation had gone. "The new kidney's working," she said, with tears in her eyes. "He's producing urine."

Watching the news documentary, I wondered if I'd be brave enough to donate a kidney to a stranger if I were a match. I'm not at all sure that I would, but I'm immensely grateful that there are people in the world who are.

To learn more about organ donation, you can visit the U.S. Government page about the issue, or go to Donate Life America.


  1. That's a nice post, Susan. For some reason the idea of people giving freely their extra organs like kidneys reminds me of the Necessary Beggar in your book. I'm probably not making that connection right but it would be nice if all the world had a giving attitude rather than a fearful one of self protection. If we believed/knew that should we need another kidney there would be one available it might make it easier to give up one of the ones we are born with.

    Happy New Year!

  2. The generosity of live organ donors is wonderful. It's a shame we need so many live organ donors. Americans bury or cremate 20,000 transplantable organs every year.

    There is another good way to put a big dent in the organ shortage -- if you don't agree to donate your organs when you die, then you go to the back of the waiting list if you ever need an organ to live.

    Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. About 50% of the organs transplanted in the United States go to people who haven't agreed to donate their own organs when they die.

    Anyone who wants to donate their organs to others who have agreed to donate theirs can join LifeSharers. LifeSharers is a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition.

  3. I could probably do the kidney donation without too much of a problem (assuming they would want a 50-year-old kidney!)

    And it's not just organs - bones and tissues are needed; my sister is walking on fused ankles made out of cadaver bone!


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