No Time to Volunteer? Just Donate a Kidney!

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.

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5 Responses to No Time to Volunteer? Just Donate a Kidney!

  1. Jamie says:

    I give blood as often as possible for the same reasons. While I don’t know the people who receive it, it only takes 30 minutes of my time once every 8 weeks. Plus I can go on the day that is most convenient for me, rather than attending a scheduled meeting. You know you are making an immediate difference and it is not a major time commitment.

  2. Krystal says:

    I donated a kidney to my mother, it was her second transplant, they won’t let me when I was six years old. Luckly It’s amazing when people so generouly give to others. I agree with you 100% the feeling you get from being a donor is the most rewarding thing. Thank you very much, kidney diease is strong in my family. I wish there were more out there that saw the good and did find it as some scary occurance. It’s truely simple and makes a word of difference the minute the reciept receives your wonderful gift.

  3. Leslie Holland says:

    I’m scheduled to donate a kidney to a friend on August 16. It is a big front-end commitment as far as testing and perseverance. There are a lot of hurdles to cross and the possibility of setbacks is huge. But I’ve uncovered a sense of dedication to a cause that I forgot was inside me. And I don’t really feel like a hero; I just think this is one thing I can do in a small way to make one family’s life better.

  4. Sue says:

    I’ve been trying to donate a kidney to a friend of mine (won’t be a directed donation since our blood types are incompatible so I’m not sure what’s going to happen). I’ve not gotten to the point where they actually tell me how long the recovery period is and I got a bit freaked out after hearing that someone I know was off of work for 6 weeks (not sure I could do that), so I’m glad to hear of 10 days. That’s more like it (and technically I work from home, so I’m betting on less than that!). 🙂

    I find it interesting that every time I accidentally mention I am trying to donate, people are impressed. I think it’s no big deal — I have two and my friend needs one. What’s the dealio, right? I don’t think it’s a selfless thing to do, but apparently, most people don’t think of it like that. So who am I to dissuade them of their awe of me… I’ll let them continue to be impressed! And meantime, I just hope that my trying to do this little thing makes THEM think of doing something in the future.

  5. wedew says:

    I gave blood and gave a kidney its better now

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