Last year I found out that one of my daughter’s friends mother was in need of a kidney transplant and was looking for a live donor. My first thought was “Oh gosh I hope someone is found.” My second thought was “I’ll repost it on my Facebook page and see if we can find someone.” My third thought was “Why should I expect someone who is my friend on Facebook come forward and offer to give their kidney to someone they don’t even know if I’m not prepared to do it myself?”
So, I took a deep breath and Googled “Kidney Live Donation”. The first site that came up was an NHS one that took me to a page headed “Could I be a Kidney Donor?”
I read that page and then some more and then a few more, trying to find somewhere that would tell me that I had better not do this thing; but there wasn’t anywhere. Everything I read told me that in order to be considered to be a suitable donor I would have to undergo a battery of tests and unless I was fit and healthy and unlikely to suffer any complications or problems with my own health if I was left with only one kidney, they would reject me as unsuitable.
So, I took another deep breath and picked up the phone.
A few weeks later I found myself at the live donor centre at Hammersmith Hospital at 8 am, more than a little trepidatious. By the time I was ready to leave at the end of my first testing session I was feeling better about it all. Then they handed me a cardboard folder with a ton of paperwork inside it for me to read and I started to panic a bit. Anyway, I decided that I would look at the folder later, threw it in the back of the car (where it still resides) and headed off to IKEA for a crafty shop on the way home.
A while later I heard that the test results had been good as far as they were concerned and that I could proceed to the second stage. This involved spending a day at the hospital having various scans , x rays and blood tests, including a session in something called the Nuclear Medicine Department (which was a bit of a freaky idea for someone who is a fully paid up member of the anti nuclear movement I can tell you).
The last test of the day was the one that tripped me up. My blood pressure went up too high when I was on the treadmill and they stopped the test. But it wasn’t the end of it all, there was a need to get my underlying blood pressure looked at, but not necessarily a red card at that point.
Later I returned to the hospital for another scan as one of my kidney function results was not conclusive, I met with the consultant and we discussed the next stage which would be for me and my potential recipient to meet together with someone who would assess the relationship between us to make sure that I wasn’t being coerced (or paid), but was doing it because I wanted to. Then we discussed the cons for me of going ahead and the first real issue came up. Up to this point I hadn’t realized that if you donate your kidney you cannot ever take steroids or anti-inflammatory medication. I was particularly worried because my father had Rheumatoid Arthritis which I know has a hereditary component and I was scared that if I might develop it later in life I would be unable to take the medication that I know he relied on. I have had joint “issues” over the last few years so it wasn’t a fanciful consideration. As I also had cervical cancer many years ago, the consultant felt that we shouldn’t proceed until I had another smear test and had a blood test to check for Rheumatoid Factor.
I was quite downhearted at this point, having been on a bit of a high about things as it was all going so well. Also, my own mother who is quite elderly was unwell and we were backwards and forwards to the hospital with her which was becoming very worrying.
I went to my GP and booked the tests. They were done quite quickly and the smear test came back clear, one down, one to go. Then my mother was rushed into hospital and all thoughts of anything else went out of the window. Later I received the results of the Rheumatoid Factor blood test and it showed a high level of the factor. It doesn’t mean I will definitely get Rheumatoid Arthritis, but it does mean that the chances are high that I will. In the meantime, mum came out of hospital with no conclusive diagnosis apart from a diverticular stricture in her bowel that might require surgery.
I spent a week agonizing about what to do. In the end I wasn’t sleeping at night because on the one hand I felt so awful about the prospect of phoning my daughter’s friend and announcing my withdrawal and how that would affect her and her mother; but on the other hand, I was so worried about my own mother and also, (maybe selfishly) of my own potential future pain management.
I am a person who wants to help if I can. This time I had to make a very hard decision, one that left me feeling like a complete heel. I pulled out. I have failed to help someone who really needs help, because of my own fears for the future. There’s no way to dress it up as something that it’s not. I have let people down because of my own desire not to suffer the pain that I know I will suffer if I develop the symptoms of an illness that I watched my father suffer from for many years. It’s my own fear that has led me to walk away from doing what would probably have been the most helpful thing I could have done for another human being, because I am a coward.
If anyone is interested in seeing if they can become a donor please check out this link http://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/how_to_become_a_donor/living_kidney_donation/.
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