By Jim Sollisch, NKF Guest Blogger
Since I donated a kidney to a friend almost 4 months ago, I’ve had a lot of conversations that go like this:
Nice person: “That’s a big deal. I’m not sure I could do something like that.”
Me: “Sure you could.”
Nice person: It seems so extreme.
Me: Do you do any volunteer work?
Nice person: I volunteer at a soup kitchen every Thursday night.
Me: That’s a big deal. I couldn’t do something like that.
I’m not kidding either. For me, donating a kidney to a friend was easier and more rewarding than regularly volunteering or being on a non-profit board. Volunteering week after week bores me. And I tend to be very selfish with my time. Same with being on non-profit boards. I’ve been on several, and all it takes is one good long board meeting about finances, and I’m ready to trade places with a guy confined to solitary in a penitentiary in the deep South without air conditioning.
So what’s my point? Two points really. First, there’s not a hierarchy of good deeds with organ donation on the top. To me, the real heroes are out there feeding the hungry week after week.
And second, if you’re anything like me— impatient, action-oriented, competitive– donating a kidney is a perfect opportunity to do something positive without having to sit through boring meetings or face the same task week after week. It’s an event, not a commitment. I approached it as if I were training for a race. For six weeks leading up to the surgery, I worked out harder, ate better and got down close to what I weighed in college. I started to appreciate my good health in a way I never had before. My friend’s struggle with kidney disease made me feel incredibly lucky to be so healthy. It seemed so natural to give her some of what I had. Not a big deal at all.
I couldn’t wait for the surgery day to arrive. I looked at the recovery as a physical test. I wanted to recover faster than any other donor. Again it was like getting through a series of grueling workouts. But when you’re in training, the people in your life aren’t really cheering for you. In this case, people couldn’t have been nicer. And that made it even easier.
I was back at work in ten days. And after the mandatory six-week recovery period, I was back to playing basketball and working out. I was completely back to myself—except for one lingering side-effect: an incredible sense of happiness and well-being. I actually felt like I had accomplished something real and tangible. And that’s a feeling I’ve rarely gotten from other acts of giving.
Mr. Sollisch is senior vice president/creative director at Marcus Thomas LLC, an ad agency in Cleveland, Ohio. He donated a kidney to his colleague, Joanne Kim, earlier this year.