Hack & Slash – Living Organ Donation

In two minds over whether to write about this really, it’s of interest to me but like most things people do in life – it’s probably of zero interest to anyone else. Still, as an exercise in self reflection it is interesting to me at least so why not?

Anyway, what is ‘it’ anyway? Well it is living organ donation and the organ in question is my kidney (insert joke about donating other ‘organs’ here ((insert joke about ‘inserting’ here)). To clarify – what I’m planning to do is called Non-Directed Altruistic Donation, which basically means that I offer up a kidney and, assuming I’m mostly fit and sane, someone out there will get it when they need it.

At the moment I’m only at the stage where the fit and sane part has yet to be established. Paperwork is filed and my first meeting and blood test is on Friday so that is, I suppose, when the process becomes a real one rather than just speculative form filling. Although even with that it’s still feeling a bit abstract, to me at least.

Why do it? A few reasons I suppose. The idea first crossed my mind years back when I was driving with a friend in the US, they had some PBS style talk radio piece on about altruistic donors and the concept stuck with me. I think the programme was actually about whether true altruism existed at all or if even the most selfless acts were, ultimately, self serving in some respect. A discussion I couldn’t answer then and still have no concrete conclusions to. Although I incline to optimism when it comes to human behaviour, as far as reality will let me. Anyway, that was the genesis of the idea I think but the logic in following through on it is a bit more convoluted.

To be honest it’s probably easiest for me to start by saying ‘why not do it?’. The potential to save a life – or dramatically improve one – is, to me, a self evident good after all so the real question isn’t so much what motivation there is to try and do it but what risks are there that might stop you. And there are risks, of course there are. For one thing some stranger with a knife is going to slice you open and take an important bit out, for another there are slightly raised risks of future problems. But then the majority of my life choices to date have the same true of them, the smoking, drinking, poor diet, lack of exercise – any/all of them could lead to complications down the way and the decision to do any of them was no decision at all. They were unthinking grabs for what felt good, or what was easiest, or frankly whatever was put in front of me. Not that I’m lamenting any of that, there’s no self condemnation or straight edge turn in this but if those risks were acceptable to me for no real gain to anyone then a slight increase in risk to do something that’d be a real gain for someone? Well, why not? Just taking it as that kind of pragmatic choice it seems right to me, never mind any higher or more profound logic than that.

Another downside is that I may never be able to box or do full contact sports again apparently, which as anyone who’s met me can attest will be a genuine loss to the worlds of UFC and rugby.

Reactions to my choice so far have been mixed. To be honest I’m trying to avoid talking about it too much, with sporadic success. It’s a very personal thing to do really and it’s hard not to sound like a bit of a prick discussing it, as if I’m showing off in some way. That said though it’s also a thing that’s happening and taking up a chunk of my head space at the moment so it’s hard not to want to talk about it even if it’s only in the same terms as talking about the cat having fleas, or gearing up for my busy work period at Christmas. Dull but it is what’s happening at the moment.

Most people are, vaguely, positive so far. Most find it a bit weird really, or at least that’s the impression I get and fair enough. That I can justify it for myself in no way extends to expecting or wanting anyone else to do the same because by a lot of lights it is a weird choice. Certainly an extreme one in its way. Most of my life choices always have been though so that one at least I don’t find it hard to live with. Some people have been negative about it, which I’ve less patience for. Indifference is more than fair but to take offence at the idea, especially when it’s someone else’s choice just seems like a bad sign in itself. ‘Nobody would do it for you’ or ‘I’d just look after myself’ are shitty takes to have whatever the topic really, even if you do believe the former and I’d say the fact that people are altruistic donors shows that it isn’t necessarily true. More on that sort of thing another time though maybe.

Anyway, as I said this is, I suspect, mostly just of interest to me but as I go down the road with it I might write more stuff. Or who knows? Come Friday they might let me know that I’m a physical wreck myself and in urgent need of going straight on the recipient list. There’s plenty of medical and mental stuff to go through yet after all. We shall see.

P.S. Definitely not recommending living donation for anyone but you can register for normal, after-death donation here or to give blood here – which you should definitely do if you can.

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