It’s been just over two months now since I had surgery. Perhaps a month and a half since I checked out after my second, infection related, hospital stay. In theory I’ve got another month off work, a month away from any commitments at all in fact. In reality though there’s not much escaping life and even though I’d be happy enough to continue in my semi-holiday/retired mode the list of things to do and obligations is already getting longer and I can’t avoid life any longer. A few more weeks and, some aches and tiredness aside, I’ll be completely out of the donation process, the whole thing will shift from ‘what’s happening now’ to a memory of whatever shape and weight it ends up being.
It’s a weird phase in the whole process. The nervous build up is long since passed, the worst of the pain has abated, I’ve met pretty much everyone I know and their excitement and nerves about what I did have faded into a vague background awareness that I did it. I still get the odd stranger being surprised by my kidney donation when it comes up but that won’t last much longer either really. Some people do somewhat define themselves by being an altruistic donor – and why not to be fair. It’s a big thing to do and their enthusiasm for the process, their pride in having undergone it and their evangelising about the positives of it are all completely legitimate reactions to have on this side of things. It’s also incredibly helpful. The same people who I got my answers from before the operation, those in the support groups especially, are still there helping through the next group of people who’ve chosen to donate. They’re committed to it, whether through a strong sense of achievement or a personal connection to recipients and I’ve nothing but admiration for their attention and support of the vaguely defined community of donors.
For me though that’s not really a path I’d choose, it’s not how I choose to process the donation into my day to day life and self identity. I’m proud of what I did, no doubt, but it’s a tricky kind of pride for me. I know I did a thing and when people say it was a good thing I won’t deny it makes me smile, it’s nice to feel like you’ve contributed something positive to the world. But really it was nothing. Well, not nothing, but relative to what a lot of people do it was an irrelevant sacrifice. So far it’s represented a tiny portion of my life, some (well, quite a lot of) pain and a lot of sitting around drugged up to the eyeballs. And that’s it. The process began, there were some steps to it and now it’s over. Compare that to other people, other people I know and plenty I don’t whose own efforts to do good things, to look after those around them have vague beginnings and seem never to end and… I don’t know, donating doesn’t amount to all that much.
I don’t mean for that to sound negative, although I’m aware it does a little bit. I am proud of what I did and while I don’t think it was a huge act I do know it was worth something. Certainly to the recipient at least but I don’t feel like it’s a defining act for me. It doesn’t make me good or altruistic or anything like that, although I’d like to think they way I live my life generally might. It certainly isn’t something I’d choose to define myself by as some people do for perfectly fair reasons. Ultimately though I’d like the wider scope of my life not to rely on one positive act for justification but instead for that act to be representative of the rest of my self, although admittedly I’m generally far too lazy to top that one act.
At any rate, at this point my future relationship to donation seems like an interesting one, to me at least. I might not look to it as a pivotal act or anything but I’m curious as to how I’ll relate to it down the road, how it’ll fit into the rest of my life and my sense of self. None of which I can even find grounds to speculate on at this point to be honest. Only time will tell.
PS: Just for a practical update to follow the reflection… My recovery is going well, so far I’ve had no more issues of real note (touch wood) and the main thing left to notice is stomach muscles stitching themselves back together. Lift too much and I notice it, get nudged in the gut and I definitely notice it, have the cat stand on me and you can guarantee he’s flying across the room a second later. None of that’s a real problem though, just part of the recovery and nothing unexpected. As it stands I’ve no more hospital appointments either and only a visit to the GP a year or so down the line to even remind me of the op which is all to the good really. Beyond that there’s not much else to report, I’m tentatively starting to work again and the mundane is quickly taking over – I’m back to drawing nonsense pictures and selling stuff. My involvement in the process is rapidly winding down, until next time at least…*
*Give it 15-20 years and, assuming I’m not a decrepit wreck, I’m entirely up for donating another chunk of myself, believe they can take a whole load of your liver and you’ll still be fine. Bit of a break first though…