A year ago today, I donated my kidney. When I first endeavored to do it in March 2018, it was on a whim like most things I do in my life. I read Dylan Matthews’ experience in a Vox article. He was roughly the same age, and it seemed easy enough, so why not? That’s it. No more forethought. What else was there to think about it? The person getting the kidney needed it more than I did. Once framed like that, the decision was easy.
By the time it actually happened on Dec. 13, 2019, though, my headspace was in a darker place than anyone knew and still knows. In a lot of ways, the donation came to embody a swan song — like a parting good deed — in my head. I was giving life, but wasn’t too keen on my own at the time. Which doesn’t seem as altruistic as it did in 2018, but it’s honest. And I want to be clear about this: there are those who donate a kidney, and do experience depression and anxiety thereafter, but none of what I’m talking about had anything to do with the kidney donation.
Right before the pandemic happened, I did look into therapy, with the help of UC Health, where I donated my kidney, but the pandemic upended those plans. So, instead, I spent the first half of the year living in that dark hole, and the next half trying to dig myself out. Mind you, as someone who writes regularly, both professionally and personally about mental health, I know trying to dig yourself out of such a hole is like waving off first responders when your building collapses on you. “I got this.” Well, no. But it’s hard to admit it, and hard to reach out, even with the weight of the collapse on top of you.
All of that is to say, when I donated, I sure hoped the person I donated to would take to it (and they did; it was considered a “more than perfect” match), and a year in, would be living a healthy life. But I didn’t know if I would be here on the one-year.
Well, since I’m writing this, I’m happy to say I am still here, but with one less kidney, and while there are still plenty of bad days, that hole isn’t as deep and dark anymore. I didn’t do it the right way, but time helped in spite of that. I also don’t like that part of telling my kidney story now has to involve telling that part of the story, and part of me worries that telling that part will scare people off of donating a kidney, but I’m being honest.
I donated a kidney because it was an easy thing to do, and it’s the right thing to do. Nearly two years after that initial decision, I feel no different about that. Physically, I feel like the Brett who had two kidneys, except maybe I go to the bathroom one extra time a day. Oh, and I have a gnarly scar across the bottom of my stomach.
If you’re of sound mind and body, it’s something you could do, too. There is virtually no cost to you (and in the actual money sense as well), but it’s a great benefit to someone else. Interested in doing it? I’m open to all the questions you have about it, so feel free to ask me. You can also visit WaitListZero’s website to begin the process here.
I’m grateful that I was able to play a part in giving someone a new lease on life (and to use such cliches!), and I’m grateful that I’m still around to tell you how easy it is for you to do it. But I’m also grateful that I’ve begun to tell the other side of the story, too. Because that needs to be shared. Whatever people take from either part of the story, I hope they feel inspired all the same.