Kidney Business – Living Donation

Just back from my first proper, in person bit of kidney donation business. Was up at Guy’s Hospital this morning pissing in cups, giving blood and being told I’m average height (fair enough), not fat (good to know) and my BMI is decent. Also sitting down and talking to the Consultant for a couple of hours getting a solid info dump which I mostly didn’t glaze over for.

It was a fairly full on experience given that I didn’t know what to expect at all. First thing I knew after arriving I was being taken off into a room to be measured and weighed, which wasn’t unexpected but there was very little by way of details given on what this first meeting would entail. So bit of a whirlwind process. Then a bit of sitting around before going in to get the full rundown on things.

It was a discussion really, not an interrogation, although there were plenty of questions in there and space for me to ask my own. That was probably more daunting than the rest to be honest. I’ve done a fair bit of research on the process already and the Consultant seemed pretty happy with that but there’s still a lot I’ve not thought of and trying to conjure questions up on the spot isn’t particularly easy. That said though it was good to test my reasons for going through with this on someone who’s seen it all before. After all, sitting at home thinking about it, or explaining it to friends and family is one thing but there’s no objective measure of the right reasons/time to donate and it’s good to express your own out loud and know that a: they aren’t unique and b: they make sense.

One thing it did bring home to me though is how much mental preparation can/should go into a choice like this though. Once you step into that clinical world there’s a focus about things which means one question -> one answer. Fair enough, obviously, but few decisions in life are summed up that easily. My choice to donate certainly isn’t, I can happily bore the arse off of anyone who asks by exploring the thought processes involved not just in this choice but the life experiences, beliefs and philosophy that lead up to it. And that’s important in itself, I think you need to do some deep thinking before you move forward and you need to be comfortable with each aspect of the process yourself before you even go in to discuss it. Helpful as people are I can imagine struggling to offer up those finally packaged answers if you haven’t done the mental/emotional/philosophical leg work yourself first. As an example I was asked about the anonymity aspect of things – you don’t get to know anything about the person you donate to, they don’t know anything about you, although they can write if they want to. I had my views on that already formed to be honest, generally I prefer the donor to be an abstract entity rather than a real person, for all sorts of reasons, so the anonymity is fine with me. But if you’re not confident of your position and motivations then that can be a difficult aspect to remind a person of.

Anyway, if there was any downside to the experience it was pretty quickly resolved. Prior to attending I had, as I mentioned, very little idea about what this visit would actually entail. I’ve read up enough to know about the various steps involved in the whole process but as to their order I was pretty lost. The Consultant was ready for that though, they had a full roadmap for how that particular unit processed things which solved the problem in itself really. She also asked how the whole thing could be improved and seemed happy to find a solution to my confusion. So, not a complaint at all really.

One final note to end on – sitting in the waiting room I was in amongst people who were (mostly) there about being recipients. That was a bit of an odd one. As I mentioned I view the end result of my own donation as a bit of an abstract thing – I know there’s a person who’d benefit, I’m very glad of that, but as far as I’m concerned they have no face or identity. Only on the day, in the place, they do. Lots of them in fact. Lots of people all at various stages of the process, one of whom might end up with my kidney, or being part of the same chain of donations as mine. I mean, they probably won’t, the waiting list is long and there weren’t thousands of people in there but still, it’s a thing. Also got talking to one woman who’d had a donated kidney already, she was there for a check up. Think she assumed I had kidney problems at first, maybe picked up on my confusion and started to chat with me. Rushed, maybe a bit too quickly, to clear up that confusion – felt vaguely dishonest to even be mistaken for someone who needed help, but then also felt a little bit odd to say ‘yeah, I’m grand, just a donor’ when I (at that point) wasn’t sure of her condition. She was nice about it though, very positive about my choice and that was good. Still, it’s a small moment of oddness in the day, a bit of human interaction in a process that, to me, is a vaguely mechanical one. Felt good I suppose, in a roundabout way, to know that there was a human effect to it all which I generally don’t focus on too much.

Anyway, will leave it at that for now. The last post and this one are both a bit rambly to be honest, in future I might try to focus on particular aspects of what’s happening and keep it more coherent but who knows? The process is a long one and there’s no obligation to make this semi-journal serve any particular purpose.

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

P.P.S. I’ve got a vague roadmap for things laid out now, nothing will be moving that quickly but in theory I’ll be doing the actual donating in about a year as you have to wait for there to be a matching cycle that works for you.

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