Most people won’t entertain the notion of donating a kidney — even though it’s kind of like a spare tire.
But I did just that — and I did so in an underdeveloped country where surgical standards and hospital cleanliness are subpar.
What led me, a long-term missionary in Guatemala, to want to give up a part of my body to a mere acquaintance?
It started with a long Sunday article in an American newspaper. The author spoke about her own need for a kidney donor and the near impossibility of finding one. She was a public speaker who traveled, so dialysis wasn’t viable.
None of her family members were a match, and acquaintances who were a match demurred. When she’d lost all hope, an almost total stranger offered their kidney.
For reasons I ignore, U.S. law does nothing to encourage kidney donation. You can sell plasma but selling a body part is considered inherently abhorrent. Never mind that the recipient really needs a kidney and the donor could get by with one and probably needs the money. It’s just taboo.
America’s Social Security system is crushed by the national dialysis bill of $100 billion, but the U.S. government offers no tax incentives for donors. Recipients could become again productive members of society and tax-payers but have to wait on interminable lists for vehicular accident donors.
The article stirred me deeply. Here was a way to be like Christ, to give above and beyond to help a needy human selflessly.
I’d been a church planter and school planter for eight years in one of Guatemala’s roughest neighborhoods. We had started with street kids and had worked with gangbangers, drunks, prostitutes and their children. It was an adventure and taking on new challenges turned me on.
It wasn’t long before my desire, which I kept to myself, found an opportunity. Brother Alfredo (not pictured in this article for his privacy) was newly attending our church. Doing ministerial visitation one night, I learned that he had been suspended from work because of kidney failure. The dialysis left him exhausted. He had a strict diet and couldn’t do much. The wait for a donor was years.
How about if I give you my kidney? I asked undramatically.
I don’t know if Alfredo thought I was serious. We would have to make sure the kidney was the right shape, along with the correct blood type. There was a very strong chance I wouldn’t be an adequate match; I’d be off the hook.
As the days of testing in government hospitals drew on, the implications of my commitment began to hit me. I had a wife and three kids to worry about. I also knew that I was on my own on this one: I hadn’t consulted my pastor stateside. But I felt like my offer, given all too easily, maybe even flippantly, was a promise that I couldn’t’ take back. I had to face up to all the potential fallout alone. Part of me hoped I wouldn’t be a match.
But after days of testing at the government hospitals, everything lined up. It was green light. With somber joy and a little trepidation, I knew I was going through with it. Alfredo and I interviewed with doctors, support staff and psychologists.
I wasn’t too enthusiastic to learn that the surgery wouldn’t be laparoscopic… Read the rest: Kidney donation.